April 24, 2024

Community Engagement in Practice

In the ever-evolving landscape of social innovation and community engagement, hands-on experience within the design practice plays a pivotal role. The Distributed Design Platform is coordinated by Fab Lab Barcelona | IAAC, a space for researching the futures of our society from bits to atoms. At the core lies the Master in Design of Emergent Futures (MDEF), a program led jointly by Fab Lab Barcelona | IAAC and Elisava. Over the past months, Sally Bourdon, one of our core team members at Fab Lab Barcelona, has collaborated with master students to share practices and knowledge from the Platform ecosystem. During a study visit, students from the MDEF program, along with IAAC students from the Master of Advanced Architecture, had a unique opportunity to explore the practical aspects of community engagement in Barcelona. Through presentations and visits to various initiatives, they gained invaluable insights and inspiration.

The focal point of the 2-day study visit was to understand the principles, methodologies, and tools employed by the Fab Lab Barcelona team, renowned for their expertise in social innovation and community-driven projects. Presented by Milena Juarez, Environmental Engineer and Communities Expert, and Sally Bourdon, Communities Development Researcher, who drew from the experiences from the Platform and an EU-funded project called CENTRINNO. Students were equipped with practical knowledge to catalyze social change effectively. All of this was expanded by the visits and discussions with five initiatives in Barcelona focused on community engagement. 

On the first day, the MDEF students were invited to work in groups and share among themselves their opinions and previous experiences about the purpose, values, type of members, and infrastructure necessary for creating engagement with communities. The day continued with visits to Urban Brots and Paraguay Project, where students witnessed firsthand the transformative power of community-driven initiatives combined with alternative food systems, sociocracy dynamics, and biomaterials innovation. 

Urban Brots, an initiative fostering food sovereignty and cultural exchange among migrants, showcased the importance of grassroots efforts in promoting social cohesion. Through workshops and intercultural events, the initiative not only addresses immediate needs but also fosters long-term sustainability and inclusivity within the community. Similarly, Paraguay Project exemplified the spirit of collaborative creation, repurposing industrial spaces into vibrant hubs for interdisciplinary innovation. By emphasizing the narrative of materials and processes, the project resonated with the ethos of MDEF, focusing on the journey of creation rather than just the end product.

On the second day, a discussion took place on the essential questions for building meaningful relationships. There was a focus on the initial preparation for the upcoming MDEFest taking place in the summer, considering it as a great opportunity to foster concrete actions with communities around the city. The day also included visits to Makerszone BCN and Ateneu de Fabricació de Gràcia further enriching students’ understanding of inclusive community spaces and democratized access to technology. 

Makerszone BCN, a cooperative workshop for creators and makers, with its commitment to inclusivity, highlighted the importance of creating safe and welcoming environments for diverse communities to thrive creatively. At the Ateneu de Fabricació de Gràcia, students witnessed the democratization of digital fabrication technologies, with a focus on fostering social innovation and collaborative learning. Through open-access workshops and projects, the Ateneu exemplifies a bottom-up approach to technology, empowering citizens of all ages to explore, experiment, and create without barriers.

Throughout the presentations, discussions and visits, MDEF students gained insights into the practical applications of community engagement by immersing themselves in real-world scenarios, leaving them better equipped to navigate the complexities of social innovation.

Sounds interesting? Discover MDEF here

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