Sustainability is ultimately about the future of today’s youth and provided with the necessary skills and real opportunities, we believe their knowledge and perspective could be an important contribution to new ideas and alternative solutions. With this approach we helped the city of Malmö and Malmö Museum with creating and facilitating an unusual summer job experience for 40 young residents in Malmö – The Sustainability Lab 2020.
Building on the principles of design thinking we created and facilitated two periods of four-week long co-creative processes for 20 participants each. During four weeks we explored different themes and provided tools and techniques for the participants to voice their perspectives on issues relevant to themselves and their communities. They got to work and collaborate in groups with guidance and support from different competencies such as design, technology and pedagogy. At the end of each period the youth exhibited visualisations tackling their chosen challenge for a more sustainable Malmö. The exhibition was attended by the public and representatives for decision making in the city.
Historically, labs have mainly focused on technological or medical innovation and the demands of the market. The challenges today are understood in broader societal contexts and therefore present themselves as larger involving a lot more complexity. We therefore understand the need to create a sustainable society involving factors that are socially, environmentally and financially relevant. This has led to a growing interest around the world for labs focusing on tackling complex societal challenges such as climate change, inequality and poverty.
There are many types of labs, but most provide a platform that brings together diverse stakeholders that together want to understand and frame problems, generate new ideas and test different solutions on a small scale. A lab does not provide solutions but instead it provides seeds of possibilities through processes and tools for collaboration, experimentation and learning.
The focus in The Sustainability Lab was exploring ways for involving and empowering youth to voice their future scenarios for the city but also most importantly giving them a legitimate platform to understand, discuss and create.
With the current situation in the world the lab is perhaps more relevant than ever. The more people who contribute with thoughts and ideas, the more voices that can be heard, the brighter future we can build
The city of Malmö took a bold approach towards collaboration for this project. A team was set up through open competition involving local businesses, individual entrepreneurs, Malmö Museum and representatives from the cultural administration of the municipality. After creating the initial frame with the larger goals for the project, the city and municipality stepped back to be an equal participant with the rest of the team members. The specifics of The Sustainability Lab that created the unique summer job for young citizens of the city were devised collectively.
Zenit Design particularly emerged to take the lead on the process framing for the internships, contributing with tools from our design toolkits. We later facilitated the research activities, guiding the participants by introducing them to relevant research methods to choose from and working with them towards understanding and using their research.
During some other parts of the process that were led by our collaborators, we participated in the activities along with the youth, offering our help where we could but most importantly learning from the youth and their perspectives on the city.