Collaborative people in challenging places

Reframing social innovation and city making

A seminar in the framework of DESIS Program DxCC

To participate for free to the DxCC Seminar, please make your inscription here.

On 29th October, after the Seminar, there will be a DESIS Assembly meeting. For more information, click here.


Most people live in urban settlements that challenge the idea of cities as planned and regulated environments. They are challenging places where social and environmental problems may be tragically tangible, basic infrastructure may not exist and public institutions may be absent. Places where people may be in danger for their health and their safety and where everybody, day by day, has to invent how to live. Or at least, survive. In turn, in these same difficult and challenging environments we can also find people endowed with collaborative attitudes, creativity and entrepreneurship. People who, if supported, can become agents of change. For them and for the whole community.

Collaborative people in challenging places is a Seminar that aims to focus on how these collaborative behaviors stem from in challenging places, and what individual, social and environmental values could be produced by them.

The Seminar introduces a variety of meaningful experiences. Their common thread is how the collaborative attitude emerges, re-emerges and/or is maintained. And what could be the role of design to foster its development.

In order to do so, the DESIS Network Association and Universidad del Norte as the local DESIS Lab, got together with Red Académica de Diseño (RAD) and the Elisava, Tecnológico de Monterrey and COPPE from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (COPPE-UFRJ) to create a collaborative scenario for this discussion.

As a Pre-Cumulus Conference event at the Los Andes University, this seminar aims to warm up conference track discussion on sensing territories, meaningful communities, storytelling, counterculture and biodiversity. In that sense it proposes three areas of work:

1. Collaborative living and poverty challenges

The sharing of spaces and services has often been recognized as a way to improve quality of life. To be traveled, this path requires that the people involved have the chance to recognize and follow it. This is very difficult for those living in extreme poverty because urgent everyday needs undermine the perspective to self-reliance. Beside this, efforts to collaborate may continue to struggle against situations that tend to lead back to overcome urgent individual matters; some poverty traps such as teenage pregnancy, child labor, malnutrition and disease, increase the chances to fall back into poverty and hamper overcoming it.

Given the above, we encourage exchange and discussion about how sharing everyday life services and spaces may help against poverty traps as a vicious cycle. Can these difficulties be overcome? Are there any cases in which collaborative living has become a positive and viable model? Can collaboration help break the “poverty trap” that imprisons so many people in the world?

2. Collaborative work and conflict reconciliation challenges

Working collaboratively requires dialogue between those involved to become action. Social innovation has shown us that this can happen even among very different people. For example, between young and old, or between residents and migrants. But when dialogue breaks down, and positions get polarized among the same agenda, it makes reconciliation an additional challenge to be overcome. Conflict emerges amid people, but it also involves new ways of access to jobs, of working and to offer value for people, regardless of their differences as parties in conflict.

In that sense, this discussion encourages us to ask ourselves the following questions: How can jobs be created, and value be produced while reconciliation efforts are being undertaken in conflict or post-conflict scenarios? Could it also be undertaken for or by the people among whom there was a serious conflict? Are there examples of social innovation where collaborative job creation has also worked as a reconciliation strategy? And vice versa: are there reconciliation strategies based on the creation of collaborative jobs?

3. Collaborative care for the commons and environmental crisis challenges

Often social innovation involves the reduction of waste and fossil energy consumption, and a more conscious protection of greenery and water.  Sometimes, it also leads to the regeneration of environmental common goods and the preservation of biodiversity.  In some cases, the possibility to do it together tramples upon the challenge of leaving ownership aside, to give place to initiatives such as water harvesting, collective cleaning, safer energy distribution, among others.

Towards that direction, the discussion aims to focus on how can caring for the neighborhood infrastructure, energy and water supply, and waste management take place in underserved communities. How, in these challenging places, can people increase their care for the regeneration of environmental common goods and the preservation of wildlife and biodiversity? Can these ways of acting also be adopted in contexts dominated by extreme poverty or conflict?

The conclusions of the seminar will foster and motivate the participants to discover if and how collaboration emerges in these different challenging contexts. And, if this happens, to have a better vision of his motivations and how to activate and support it.


14:00 Opening

Carla Cipolla DESIS International coordination

Hernando Barragan Universidad de los Andes

Andres Paez Administrative Director RAD

14:10 Seminar introduction

Ezio Manzini Elisava, Barcelona and Politecnico di Milano, DESIS President

14:30 Presentations of collaborative ideas in challenging places

Collaborative living and poverty challenges

Presented by Davide Fassi, Politecnico di Milano/DESIS Network, Juan Felipe Yepes, Distrital oversight office and Mónica Triana, Universidad el Bosque

Collaborative work and conflict reconciliation challenges

Presented by Marco Lampugnani Tecnológico de Monterrey/ DESIS Network, Pablo Abril Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Edgard David Rincón Universidad del Norte

Collaborative care for the commons and environmental crisis challenges

Presented by Teresa Franqueira, Universidade de Aveiro /DESIS Network Olga Lucia Hernández Instituto Humboldt and Freddy Zapata Universidad de los Andes

15:30 Three workgroups in parallel

Coordinated by Davide Fassi DESIS Network and Mónica Triana Universidad el Bosque RAD Social;

Marco Lampugnani DESIS Network and Edgard David Rincón Universidad del Norte RAD Social;

Teresa Franqueira DESIS Network and Freddy Zapata Universidad de los Andes RAD Social

16:15 Coffee break

with Poster video Loop screening of RAD Social workshop and Monterey project’s activities

16:30 Working groups Presentation

17:00 Reflection plenary

17:30 Round table on collaboration in challenging places:

Leonardo Parra Universidad de los Andes

Albert Fuster Elisava, Barcelona/DESIS Network

Carla Cipolla UFRJ/DESIS Network

18:00 Final remarks and conclusion

By Ezio Manzini and Edgard David Rincón

18:30 Cumulus Invitation

Ricardo Sarmiento Universidad de los Andes

PDC 2020 Invitation Felipe Cesar Londoño U Tadeo for PDC


Main presentations will be held in English and group work in a collaborative multilingual Spanish and English dynamic.
Some of the names in this program could be changed; some speakers are still to be confirmed.