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Design with others

This has been a busy week full of very inspiring projects, places and people. During the sessions facilitated by Holon, we explored and tried to understand a little better the economic, social and political factors involved in land and soil in the city. On a more practical level, we went around the neighborhood in search of elements that caught our attention and tensions. Later, we were grouped by interests in order to design a small intervention with the communities that were working on the same type of tension.

Social design resources and frameworks
  • Theories of change and action
  • Transitions mino, meso, macro
  • Prototype Mapping: It is a mapping sheet included in Designing kit, a human centered design field guide

  • Leverage points:1 These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. Leverage points2

  • The Emerging Transition Design Approach: A paper by Terry Irwin. 3

  • The social Design Toolkit

  • Five components of social design: A unified framework to support research and practice 4


Akasha Hub: It is a decentralized project and a self-managed community, with its main node in Barcelona. They co-create communities and interdisciplinary projects for social change. Contact: Instagram:

Coopolis: Coòpolis, the Cooperative “Ateneu” of Barcelona is a centre for fostering and promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy in the city of Barcelona. Within the framework of the Network of “Ateneus Cooperatius de Catalunya”, priority is given to the creation of new cooperatives as well as the generation of jobs in existing cooperatives. Located in the neighborhood complex of Can Batlló, Coòpolis promotes an ecosystem of socio-economic and educational activity, employment generation and social impact. A laboratory for inter-cooperation and local economic strengthening. A tool to build cooperative cities: the new territories of economic, social and solidarity cooperation. Contact:

La Borda: The La Borda housing cooperative is a promotion self-organized by its users to access decent, non-speculative housing that places its use value at the center, through a collective structure. Documentari: Contact:

XES (Social economy network): Economy at the service of people based on cooperation and the common good. The XES is an organization formed by almost 500 members. It defends an economic system that respects people, the environment and the territories that operates under democratic criteria, horizontality, transparency, equity and participation. Contact:

Makers Zone BCN: It is a cooperative workshop for creators and makers, located in Carrer Ricart, Poble Sec, Barcelona. It is a non-profit organization with the goal of committing and being part of the community of the neighbourhood. Contacte: Instagram:

Ateneu de fabricació de Gràcia: It is one of the 5 manufacturing “ateneus” of the Barcelona Ateneus de fabricació network under the institutional support of Barcelona City Council.

Ateneus de fabricació network: The Ateneus de Fabricació, or Fab Labs, are a public service that disseminates technology and the science of digital manufacturing. They are places to learn, collaborate on different projects, and form part of the city’s social development. Anyone can make use of their spaces, tools and public resources, and propose projects to improve their immediate surroundings. The Network is made up of the city’s various “ateneus”, Barcelona’s leading digital manufacturing technology dissemination, training, and creation spaces at the service of citizens, the education community, businesses, associations, and the community. Contact:

From micro to macro

We are not alone. Humans in cities, we are not alone. We are surrounded by other living beings that seek shelter and food in the same way we do. These species try to thrive in the microhabitats they find in the ocean of cement, tar and concrete that human settlements have become.

This small intervention aims to bring us closer to these other citizens with whom we share space-time. To discover their secret life, their often nocturnal and crepuscular habits, their marvelous forms, their habitats located in small corners, in interstitial spaces, in places not very accessible to humans. Our goal is to create tools that encourage discussion, knowledge, discovery and art with these other beings to foster a healthier interspecific relationship. A relationship without disgust, without fear and full of wonder and respect.

Team members: Nicolò Baldi, Flora Rose Elise Berkowitz, Anthuanet Falcon Quispe, Francisca Herrera, Emmanuelle Pangilinan and Dhrishya Ramadass, Albert Vila Bonfill

Video of testing the prototype with a real community

There are many communities that are not organized or legally constituted. The group with which we tested the prototype is one of these communities. It is a temporary community of girls and boys from different towns near Barcelona who meet during weekends and holidays in a small town in the Pyrenees. There they form a multi-age group where origin, purchasing power or family diversity does not matter. The goal of the community is to have fun and play, and they achieve it day after day filling the streets of the town and its inhabitants with joy.


During this seminar, we have seen many projects and we have carried out a small intervention that has not gone beyond a simple real test. However, I feel I was only able to capture a small part of the complexities and tensions surrounding soil and land in the city.

The city is a paradoxical human creation that, in a certain sense, denatures us since it artificializes us and distances us from nature. On the other hand, it humanizes us since it forces us to find social forms of coexistence. There is an endless struggle in order to renaturalize an environment full of cement, concrete and asphalt in an attempt to bring us back to our origins.

Although I had been away from the social movements of a big city for a long time and was focused on working in a more natural environment, I should confess that I am very positively impressed with some of the projects I have met this week. It seems that where there are more people concentrated, there are also more chances for alliances and projects to emerge that seek profound transformations.

Certainly, deep transformations involve working with creative and engaged human groups and communities. And we must not forget that transforming is a long distance race. Most of the projects we have visited it took a lot of resources, time and energy to establish and operate. We cannot let our guard down because, although they are deeply involved in the neighborhoods, the network of transformative projects still needs to get stronger and resilient to face the future challenges of the Anthropocene.



  3. Irwin, Terry. (2018). The Emerging Transition Design Approach. 10.21606/dma.2017.210. 

  4. Nynke Tromp & Stéphane Vial (2023) Five components of social design: A unified framework to support research and practice, The Design Journal, 26:2, 210-228, DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2022.2088098