Being a human centered design organisation means we are always talking about the importance of research and learning by doing. We ask our clients to be bold and open towards experimentation and encourage them to try out ideas that at first thought, might go against our common beliefs about the world and people. But we all know it is easier to talk than to actually walk the talk.
So what did we do when recently we were in an unpleasant situation that needed some action?
Our open access yet private front yard was subject to burglary on two consecutive days with a bicycle stolen each day. Our instinctive reaction was to close the gate and add more technologically complex security solutions. This would have been expensive and contrary to many of our beliefs. But instead we installed a surveillance camera and posted notices announcing surveillance. We thought that might deter anyone trying to steal again and hence solve the problem. That was not to be. On two occasions, our vigilant neighbours spotted and accosted strangers loitering in the yard looking at the bicycle stand, totally undeterred by our surveillance solution. Technology had not solved our problem as we expected.
We often find ourselves advocating for more human solutions, solutions that are better solved without unnecessary technology. Solutions that really solve the problem and not just add another layer of technology to manage. Yet here we were.
To be honest though, we had a camera in storage and being a group of makers it was an easy thing to install. In doing so, we learnt very quickly that there was a need for a different solution. We essentially learned by doing, something that was cheap, quick and easy.
After this is when we put on our designer hats and researched other solutions to try. One very successful solution, inspired from the work of Jane Jacobs and the concept of ‘eyes on the street’ was to go contrary to our instincts and instead invite more strangers into our yard. Crime happens away from watchful eyes, so we thought we’ll increase the watchful eyes on our belongings. We opened up our yard, put out some old things from an internal Swap Shop, that we wish could be reused and invited passersby to come in, have a look, and pay a donation for the items they chose to take with them. The payment was digital and we did not man our little kiosk.
Every few minutes strangers walked into our yard and looked through things, some picked up and paid, others just browsed. But in the bargain we managed to increase the footfall into our yard, increasing risk for the thieves. We extended our internal Swap Shop to more people, furthering our resolve to be more sustainable in practice and extending the life of some of the old things that were a part of our trust loppis. We collected a few hundred kronas which will be donated to a suitable organisation working towards a more sustainable planet.
We were faced with a new situation and while we did not succeed at first try we very quickly adapted, innovated and found a solution that not only solved our problem but was a step closer to a better, more open and sustainable society.