Collaborative people in challenging places

Reframing social innovation and city making

DESIS – Design for Collaborative Cities / Seminar  – Bogotà 28 October 2019
Pre-Cumulus Conference event at the Los Andes University

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities. Most of them do it in settlements that challenge all the traditional ideas of city. They are challenging places where social and environmental problems may be tragically tangible, their 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. But these places are challenging also in positive terms. If they are where, day by day, willing or not, people must invent and re-invent they life, they are also social environments endowed with a huge energy. A widespread creativity and entrepreneurship that, in principle at least, could be cultivated and transformed in an agent of change. Fore the same involved people, for the whole society and for whole Planet.

In turn, the mainstream discussion on social innovation, until now, has mainly looked in other directions. It has mainly referred to a traditional idea of city: a city, full of everyday life problems, of course, but, for everything else, described as a context far away from the challenging reality experienced by the majority of the new citizens world wide (see also Annex 1 Background notes).

Collaborative people in challenging places is a Seminar that aims to focus on how innovative collaborative behaviours appear in challenging places, and what individual, social and environmental values they can produce.

In this spirit the Seminar introduces a variety of meaningful experiences and, on this basis, discusses what these experiences teach us, what could be generalized and, in particular, what is, or could be, the role of design in their starting-up and development. The Seminar will be organized by DESIS Network within the Design for Collaborative Cities (DXCC) program and in collaboration with Uninorte DESIS Lab and other partners to be defined (for a brief presentation of DESIS and the DXCC program, see Annex 2 Design for Collaborative Cities).The event will be held on October 28, 2019, in Bogotà, as a pre-Cumulus Conference event. That is, shortly before the Cumulus Conference organized by the Los Andes University of Bogotà, from 30 October to 1 November 2019.

The Seminar contents are introduced with three presentations bringing comparable examples of collaboration in challenging places.To make these examples more comparable, in each presentation, they could refer to similar areas of activity. For instance: (1) collaborative living (sharing everyday life services and spaces), (2) collaborative work (producing value and creating jobs through cooperation), (3) collaborative care for the commons (caring for the neighbourhood, caring for water, energy, waste, caring for wild life). The common thread should be how the collaborative attitude emerge, re-emerge and/or is maintained in the different challenging places.After these presentations, the audience will be divided into workgroups (on the proposed areas of activity). Participants will be asked to bring an example coherent with the one of the proposed areas of activity (to make this possible, active participants are requested to send in advance the seminar organizers the example their would like to present). Their workgroup discussions are structured considering the urgent questions proposed in the previous section of this document.

In the seminar final parts, the workgroups will present the results of their discussions (with the answers to the proposed questions) and they are discussed by some invited discussants and by the whole audience.
Tentative program
    • 14:00 Opening (DESIS Coordinator, Cumulus President, Los Andes Dean, if available)
    • 14:20 Presentations of collaborative ideas in challenging places  (3X30’ each)
    • 15:50 Three workgroups in parallel (including coffee break)
    • 16:30 Presentation working groups (3×10’)
    • 17:00 Two invited discussants + open discussion
    • 18:00 Final remarks and conclusions

DESIS Network, Uninorte DESIS Lab


DESIS Network and Uninorte DESIS Lab with TEC Monterrey, Mexico; Elisava, Barcelona, Spain, + other partners (to be discussed)

 Pre-seminar active participation

 In the next months we want to start the conversation on the seminar theme. To do it, we propose to collect examples of transformative social innovation in places that, for reasons that they will be asked to better explain, they consider to be “challenging”.

Therefore, we warmly invite to express the intention to actively participate to the seminar sending one or more cases you consider interesting.

If you want to participate, please keep in account these recommendations:
  • The proposed cases must be in an urban settlement (every kind of urban settlement, included the informal ones)
  •  ​Choose them looking to these three main areas of activity: (1) collaborative living (sharing everyday life services and spaces), (2) collaborative work (producing value and creating jobs through cooperation), (3) collaborative care for the commons (caring for the neighbourhood, caring for water, energy, waste, caring for wild life).
  • Consider that the cases should be used to discuss the questions proposed in the seminar introduction and, in particular, the following one: how do collaborative behaviours emerge, re-emerge and/or are maintained in their challenging contexts?
  • To increase the comparability of the proposed cases, collect them using a common form (see Annex 3 Template for case collection).
  •  If you are interested in this active participation, and you have ay questions, please contact us (contact address: )


 31st July: Expression of interests (in presenting a case) to be sent

30th September: proposed cases to be sent (using the proposed form)

28th October: Seminar​​