Design as a Tool for Social Changes (6th Workshop of the NEB Seminar)

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Le 16/03/2022

Design as a Tool for Social Changes (6th Workshop of the NEB Seminar)

The European Green Deal plans to take Europe into a new era of modern and resource-efficient economy in which no person and no place is left behind.

Social inclusion is therefore one of the essential components for the success of the Green Deal.NEB has been designed as an invitation to address complex societal problems together through co-creation. One of the most important values of NEB is “inclusion” from valuing diversity, to securing accessibility and affordability.

As we know, Europe is currently facing an ageing population. This phenomenon is set to increase in the coming years: according to the population projections calculated by Eurostat, the proportion of people aged 65 and over would be 28.5% in 2050, according to the central scenario. This could be a central issue for the NEB.

Improving the inclusion and employability of people with disabilities through social design is also an issue on which NEB can have an impact. Indeed, out of 447.7 million Europeans, 87 million people were affected by disability, to varying degrees, in 2020. Along with national policies, the EU has developed a framework for an anti-discrimination policy towards people with disabilities. Various measures to improve accessibility are detailed in the European Accessibility Act of 2018 in order to improve the daily life of people with disabilities by specifying which goods and services should be accessible.

Overall, the issues addressed by the NEB must ensure to smooth out the gaps in terms of inequalities among members countries and, most importantly, to decrease it. As measured by the Gini coefficient, inequalities in Europe increased during the Eurozone crisis and were expected to return to their pre-crisis level in 2019. However, that was without counting on the appearance of Covid in early 2020. Indeed, the pandemic has had a major impact on widening inequalities in Europe. Intergenerational and gender inequalities have been dramatically increasedby the various restrictive measures taken to contain the pandemic, according to a report by Eurofound. In the 18-34 age group, it is women who have lost most of their jobs as a result of the economic shock caused by the virus. The widespread use of remote working is also instructive. For example, 74% of employees with a high level of education worked at home during the lock-in, compared to 34% of those with a bachelor's degree. The need to reduce inequalities and develop social cohesion is crucial for the European Union and the NEB can be a tool to achieve this goal.

Specific problematics can be addressed within this workshop: examples can involve the physical transformation and regeneration of territories, including small villages, rural areas, shrinking cities, degenerated city districts and de-industrialised areas. It can also involve the development of ambitious social housing projects and the reconversion, renovation, regeneration of built environment to fight segregation and isolation, as well as address particular needs of groups and individuals who are the most vulnerable, for instance, at risk of exclusion or poverty or experiencing homelessness. Examples can also illustrate how the advanced implementation of “design for all” principle to the transformation of the built environment can address accessibility issues for people with disabilities, as well as address aging factors.

Examples can also not involve any physical transformation but show how community services, new ways of bringing various communities (e.g. multigenerational settings) and/or various functions (housing, social inclusion, education and training, etc.) together can bring new solutions to address specific needs.

Design can also provide a lever for democratic participation through the practice of co-design, characteristic of social design. This participatory and inclusive approach allows a moredemocratic accessto design, by recognising the power of individuals and communities to act on their environment. The co-design protocol aims to involve the inhabitants at all stages of the project in order to identify their expectations as well as the resources and difficulties linked to the project. This practice therefore allows civil society to address projects that shape people's direct environment.

Relationship with NEB objectives and prospects for cooperation and funding

The NEB aims to create beautiful, sustainable and inclusive neighbourhoods by fostering new ways of living together and accelerating the green transition. The challenge is to create synergies around these 3 key dynamics that allow all European citizens to access at lower cost, goods from the circular economy, short circuits that emit less greenhouse gases and regenerate nature and biodiversity.

Almost all the objectives of the NEB are fulfilled within the challenges of putting people back at the coreof future design projects and in particular within the four axes that the European Commission has defined:

  • Reconnecting with nature
  • Regaining a sense of belonging
  • Prioritising the places and people that need it the most
  • The need for long-term, life-cycle thinking in the industrial ecosystem

Consequently, several opportunities for co-financing, experimentation and labelisation can be found in the programmes that will integrate the implementation of the NEB, organised in 3 categories:

  • Transformation of places on the ground
    • Calls: Horizon Europe, IUA, FEDER,
  • Transformation of the enabling environment for innovation
    • Calls: Cosme, Life, Horizon Europe
  • Diffusion of new meanings
    • Erasmus+, …

Guidelines and questions for the workshops

The workshop aims to identify solutions and potential cooperation to work together between European cities and regions and their local operators such as universities, academic sectors and civil society, in order to build tomorrow projects capable of capturing EU funding and/or participating together in NEB dynamics.

Examples of questions for the workshop:

  • What are the success factors of a social innovation project through design?
  • How to enhance participation in design projects among the most vulnerable (in terms of low income, social isolation, etc) ?
  • How can we ensure a real bottom-up approach by civil society in urban development projects?
  • How can the NEB address the lack of inclusiveness of cities for people with reduced mobility?
  • What types of projects could be embodied through the practice of co-design, thus allowing the population to be included in the transformation of its environment?
  • Working patterns have changed a lot during the pandemic, especially through the massive development of remote working. How can these new practices and needs be taken into account in the future development of cities and business districts?
  • In what ways can design be a tool for reducing gender inequalities in the professional world?