Design Methods, Konstfack and SVID/SKL
Journey mapping, Story-telling, Trigger material, Cross-sectoral co-operation, Embodied Mind
How can we understand the asylum system and potentially change it guided by the experience it produce? The project is aiming to explore and discuss design methods in practice to make the experience visible and material for systemic changes.
Elin Eng, Matilda Legeby, Kajsa Lindström, Minna Magnusson
May 31, 2016
”People die the death of boredom, the motivation is being killed”, one of our respondents proclaimed in an interview, made in our pre-study of what the Swedish asylum system is doing to the ones experiencing it. How can we understand the asylum system and potentially change it guided by the experience it produces? One story after another unfold the loss of motivation as reason to the despair that the system creates to its users. This project is structured with one pre-study (performed by Matilda Legeby, Kajsa Lindström, Elin Eng, Minna Magnusson), exploring design methods to make the experiencers stories visible. By our interventions with people who have a current experience of the system (continuously called experiencer), we have created three hypothesis that could lay behind a loss of motivation; the expectation combined with action collapse, the access collapse and the information collapse.
The three hypothesis act as the foundation to why we think a rotation of experience will have to be transferred into the public sector in a more systematic approach. We have sketched an outline of how a rotation could be performed by a do-tank, where the stories of now can be unfolded and be rewritten by those who experience them.
The aim is to create a tank where experience can be told, understood and also used as fuel to material articulations, serving as suggestions to future scenarios. But how do we ask, understand and communicate the experience? What implications will the concept and methods we use and have designed impose, when we (creators of the tank) participate in enacting the realities that we want to bring to the public sector?
The pre-study was followed by a study (performed by Elin Eng) on aesthetic impact on behalf of the embodied mind. To enable a rotation of experience, from where it is experienced into the public sector who is creating it, acknowledging the notion of space – where this do-tank will operate becomes crucial. The mobile do-tank will demand attention from concerned people (the users of the system; officials and the experiencers). How then, can the mobile do-tank create a space that invite people both from the centre (public sector) and from the periphery (experiencers) and make them feel equally of value in this shared space? The final prototype of this project, the Dome-Tank, is material to a continuous discussion of the aesthetic impact on performative design.
Autumn 2015 plunged the political sphere of vicinity to rubble. European Union struggles to unite on a common migration strategy. Dead bodies float in the Mediterranean sea, the beaches of Lesbos are cultivated into refugee camps, Great Britain is campaigning to a Brexit, Hungary is building a wall and at the same time European Union is bargaining with Turkey on numbers of asylum seekers. For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU. (European Commission, 2016).
Germany and Sweden marched as front figures to an open welcoming of asylum seekers. But what was being promised in September in terms of an open society was then being announced impossible a couple of months later – when the Swedish government closed the borders and declared a restraining law change. All brought to table just briefly after the Bataclan shootings in Paris.
Europe continuously looks fragile and threatened of xenophobic winds. But people streams will most likely not decrease, as the state secretary to the education minister Aida Hadzialic asserted, ”the refugee flows are only in the beginning – this will become normality due to war and climate change” (Mörtvik, 2016).
Xenophobic winds wants to exclude and build walls, yet countries, continents – the world, is heavily interweaved, arranged like a domino play with zillions of epicenters. What happens borders away will brick by brick affect the content within the Swedish borders, hence the traces of the domino bricks act as the backdrop of this project.
Last year (2015) Sweden came to receive about 163 000 people in need of protection. That is twice as many as previous year and the largest amount of asylum applications handled in Swedish history (Migrationsverket, 2016). The Migration Agency voiced concern regarding the state of of the asylum system, lacking capacity to administrate the increased number of applications. The agency has more than doubled the number of employees from 3000 to 7000 in just a couple of years, and express growing pains. A state of crisis roaming the public and political sphere established a general shift of tone in the migration debate. While the tone got intensified, the public radio continued proclaiming stories of people stuck in a system, heading to despair, with loss of motivation and risk of exclusion.
As the stories refugees and migrants unfold, it is evident that seeking asylum in Sweden is not a Sunday stroll. Today waiting for a resident permit will hold you pinioned for at least 15 months. What are the affects of such a situation? What implications are the asylum seeker facing trying to establish a life in Sweden? How is the individual seeking asylum experiencing the travel through agencies on their way entering Sweden as a society? How can the experience be understood and made of use as new systems are being built?
How can we with design as the tool and empathy as the lens, make visible and increase the understanding of the journey trough the public agencies, hence the travel into the Swedish society, from the asylum seekers perspective?
The articulation is consciously leaving out description of to who the understanding should increase, with purpose to find the who deeper in the process. Although, this articulation is constructed after conversation with Jonas Gumbel (SVID/SKL), who described a general need for a greater understanding in the public sector.
What does general imply in this situation? Can a general understanding be created? Can design methods answer to create the general?
SVID, Stiftelsen Svensk Industridesign, claims to be an independent foundation that is striving to implement design methods in all work of change and innovation in both business and public sector. In close relation to SKL, Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting, they aim to reach high efficiency on a national level by pushing the importance of user perspective. The two organisations also come in close relation via Jonas Gumbel himself, who has his time is divided equally between the two organisations. SVID is currently establishing a ”National support function” (in Swedish Nationell stödfunktion), aiming to support collaborations of different actors operating to improve the situations of newcomers and unaccompanied minors.
The possibility to co-operate with SVID and SKL arrived through our previous work in the project ”Call for action”, where we looked at the living-situation at transit accommodations for unaccompanied minors. This brief project, where we developed a workshop of video prototyping, travelled to the knowledge of Gumbel, who had interests in ventures on migration, why we could establish a co-operation operating as a pre-study applicable to the national support function mentioned above.
Asylum seeker is a person whose request for sanctuary is yet in process by the national system that the asylum seeker applies to. (UNHCR, 2016)
Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected by international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk. (UNHCR, 2016)
Newcomer is, in Sweden, a person who is subject to the Act (2010: 197) on establishment activities for certain newly arrived immigrants. It can be a person who has received a residence permit as a refugee, as a quota refugee, as someone in need of subsidiary protection or due to particularly distressing circumstances, or who is a relative of the above people and has received a residence permit due to the extension. (Riksrevisionen, 2014)
Asylum system does in this text concern the assembled procedures that asylum seekers encounter in order to get residence permit, mainly managed by the Swedish Migration Agency.
Establishment system does in this text concern the assembled procedures that newcomers encounter in order to become a part of the Swedish society, mainly managed by the Swedish Employment Agency.
Enter Sweden System is, by this project, a suggestion on change of discourse when discussing the assembled and overlapping procedures of Asylum system and Establishment system, aiming to include not only the legal procedures, but social and cultural involvement too.
Journey mapping is a design method that visualize a procedure and the interaction of its user. In this project the method mainly has served as an interactive interview technique, to unfold events on the respondents travel to and into Sweden.
Experience Barometer is an idea of an emotion graph tool developed in this project. It aims to let the respondent describe important experienced events on a matter and arrange them on an emotional scale, to make visible the experienced events in relation to emotion.
Extract from the Administrative Procedure Act (RF1kap§2)
”The personal of the individual, economic and cultural welfare will be fundamental aims of public activity. In particular, the public will secure the right to work, residence and education, together with social care and security and good conditions for health.”
Translated from Förvaltningslagen (RF1kap§2)
”Den enskildes personliga, ekonomiska och kulturella välfärd ska vara grundläggande mål för den offentliga verksamheten. Särskilt ska det allmänna trygga rätten till arbete, bostad och utbildning samt verka för social omsorg och trygghet och för goda förutsättningar för hälsa.”
”People die the death of boredom, the motivation is being killed.” (Anonymous respondent, 2016).
By engaging with design methods we aimed to illustrate the feelings experienced in the asylum system and so also map the process in it self. The focal point of the following paragraphs is to understand reasons to why many asylum seekers experience a great loss of motivation. The hypothesis we draw upon the stories of respondents are assumed rather than confirmed from our material. We did not have sufficient material to claim supposed truth in our statements, but in conversation with the Swedish Migration Agency we have understood that our assumptions are somewhat close to the most recent report produced by their in house service designer. The theories are mixed with descriptions of methods, readings and unfolded stories.
Motivation drain because of unmet expectations and loss of capability to action.
As there is no legal entry-ways into and routs through Europe, arriving to Sweden is a risky journey. The journey mapping of the respondents ee stories, tells us that how the travel across borders turns out is much about chance, but foremost also to their own driving force and choices of actions. Before coming to Sweden the asylum seeker is managing the route. And at the same time the goal of a safe country looms as a distant salvation.
The expectations on the country of destination starts to build up before the arrival. Finally by the finishing line, many experience a tremendous relief of being in a safe and democratic country – leaving their fingerprints at the Migration Agency is by far a very happy memory to our respondents. With the finger printed, the expectation of a new life to begin becomes an important backdrop to the following loss of motivation – when the great wait intrudes instead of the expected new life.
It is hard to influence your life after arrival – ”People are being held back, Sweden is creating a culture of passivity”, a relative to an asylum seeker stated in an interview. According to Legeby (SR P1, Konflikt, 2016) the first months living in the new country is of great importance for the future life creation. It will build the idea of what you think you can achieve. How does the tensions between the expected life and the experienced life of passivity affect the potential to build a new life in the new country, both in present and in prospect?
To talk about expectation and understand what activities has been of importance for the asylum seeker, we created a workshop called Experience Barometer. The participant was first asked to pin down expectations that they had on Sweden before arrival and dreams they want to achieve here in Sweden. The expectations were put in the beginning of a timeline and the dreams at the end. The timeline would describe the time spent in Sweden, from arrival to present. The next step was to pin down events that have been of importance and arrange them on the timeline. At last the participant got to place them in relation to how they felt during the events. This gave a visual graph on emotion related to their experience, which was used as discussing material reaching to why they think it was experienced this way. Reaching to the why is the goal of the whole exercise, as why looks beyond the event it self and search for reasons behind.
By asking the participant to pin down important events – we could locate actions and non-actions and relate them to the expectations of the participator. Through our test run of the method it was striking to see the events in relation to each other – what qualifies as lows and highs? Many visits to the reception at the Migration Agency qualified as lows, whereas returning a phone – found on the streets, to its owner qualified to a high point, arguing that every possible chance to demystify migrants are of value. With this method we think it is possible to quickly get an overview of the experience and locate inflamed issues and events. We also believe it could be developed to a digital tool with great benefits, but also highlight the values that crafting the timeline yourself creates.
Motivation drain because of restrained access to services and society.
Encountering asylum seeking stories via journey mapping quickly got us to understand that accessing society is difficult without a source or specific capacity that can engage a snowball effect for each individual. By asking to follow a thing in the interviews we could track the story of one item and locate its relations in order to understand the social impact it has upon its owner.
One interview brought a cello into light. He, who played the cello, was unable to bring it with him during his flight across Europe. Finally arrived to Sweden he could arrange for the instrument to be sent to him. The cello arrived damaged, but with a temporary patching he could play again. The music he played turned into his snowball as someone picked up his tunes while visiting the asylum accommodation, which brought him connections and a place to act in the Swedish cultural sphere.
geographic position of the accommodation facilities are not necessarily placed close to social and societal services. It becomes a physical detachment to the society that people are unable to access until approval of resident permit. Even after resident permit, access to the society will not be an easy task, as gentrification, lack of housing and renoviction (term describing the relation of renovation and eviction) are problems faced in Sweden today (SR P1, Konflikt, 2016).
According to one of our respondents, micro societies are being developed at the accommodations. One describes it like micro dictatorships, as people continue to gather in articulated groups from previous settlements. Our respondents claims that they are experiencing an unsafe atmosphere, the isolation of the accommodation give little chance for the habitants to encounter new settlements – it rather creates fear of the new.
When the liberty of action is restrained followed by a physical detachment, it is easy to think that meaningful activities should be run at the accommodation facilities. At least some kind of stimulation provided by the civil society. Sense of meaning has though, according to Svendsen (1999) a connection to a focused approach to the outside world. Although the intention is good with activities run at location, maybe the physical detachment to the outside world is holding people back in the motivation to engage?
How can access to society be thought of in the asylum system? Perhaps the question needs to be rephrased, how can we build to allow access, regardless if you are asylum seeker or citizen?
Information provision is essential for social inclusion. The ways to locate and access relevant content, both legal and cultural, in forms that are understandable and usable, is indispensable. (Zachrison, 2010). But it seems like information has troubles finding its way forward. To many asylum seekers it seems unclear where and how to find information and many even have difficulties understanding and trusting the translators present. People who cannot access information are often marginalized, and have no choice but to gather the information from the social location. Word by mouth travels in the social networks, rumors are easily created and can, just like the game of Chinese whispers, change the content of the information dramatically and turn into menace if it breeds mistrust. Zachrison (2010), hinting to the center-periphery theory, describes that ”those in the margins have different access to information, knowledge and ways of conceiving the world than those in the centre.”
The piece of information that is most wanted is of course the proceedings of the application. Through our method Experience
Barometer we understood that the physical journey to the reception at concerned Migration Agency, is of great importance to many asylum seekers. Referring back to the theory of action, it demonstrates the need to feel that you are at least trying to get answers, even though you are aware of that the returning message most likely will be I don’t know, and risk an other bodily sense of defeat. It also sheds light to the value of physical meetings, as oral briefing according to many asylum seekers, often is considered the preferred way to receive information (Herner & Hedin, 2010).
Information exclusion is per se leaving the life in hostage to uncertainty, that for many leads to a sense of being insignificant. It is like riding autobahn into boredom. Svendsen (1999) states that a well-functioning society fosters the capability to find meaning; a dysfunctional do not.
From the pre-study we could track that there are many public agencies involved in the asylum seekers journey into the Swedish society. Each and every agency with its specific brick to add to the route. A journey that impose understanding of the system(s) built for the administrators rather than the traveler who is experiencing it. We can see traces of a public sector aiming for user perspective but who have troubles get to action. One document that we got hold of (Livshändelser), produced by a number of agencies together, tried to describe the journey through the agencies without actually engaging with people who have experienced it. They humbly recommended that this would be good to do, without doing it themselves. As people in the margins, in this case the asylum seekers, most likely have other ways of conceiving the process than those in the centre (the public
sector), a user perspective is tremendously relevant, so that the system can become more efficient (i.e not create 60 % of failure demand) yet build a decent life while existing in the system.
A public sector without user perspective have less ability to understand the needs of the user and therefore also meeting their needs. What also has been understood, is that the public sector have troubles understanding each-others procedures, sometimes causing a catch 22 for asylum seekers (Joubi, 2016, 30 maj).
How can we reach a public sector that is built upon user experience – allowing for the constant change of needs in the population? How can we force back the information silos and allow for an assembled system to act dynamically with the ow of people in the system?
What if the experience, thoughts and ideas of the users are transfered into the public sector by a practice based think tank – a do-tank that connect the sector with its users by asking in this case asylum seekers and newcomers for advice – how can we jointly build a good Enter Sweden System?
By introducing the Enter Sweden System as an idea of concept in itself, I speculate if a change of discourse is needed. An asylum system is a legal process, as well as refugee and newcomer are legal statuses. And addressing people applying for asylum as asylum seekers is still a legal term. But entering a country is not solely a legal process, it is also a social and a cultural journey.
Through out the pre-study we understood that there is a problem on the matter of grouping people – 163 000 people are now applying for asylum, and have a variety of needs. But when addressing all these people as one group it may cause the confusion that the needs are of one particular character? Is the vocabulary, based on legal statuses (asylum seeker, refugee, newcomer), in fact stigmatizing the individuals? Can a different use of language create a mindset that allows for a multitude of needs?
”Truth should be said of those who experience it” said Nihad Bunar quoting Pierre Bourdieu, at a lecture given on a workshop themed ’Integration’ in Varberg, 2016, 11 April.
Before briefing the concept idea, a definition on what a system is should be present. In general terms, a system could be recognized as a whole, with a clear limitation in relation to its surrounding and, within the whole, there is a definite order. The surrounding supply the whole with resources, that are processed within the frame of the whole, resulting in something that affect the surrounding in an expected and hopefully positive direction.
Continuously, when referring to system, I mean the assembled processes that an individual seeking asylum and establishing a life in Sweden will have to go through, organized by the public sector.
Now, with how a system can be looked upon in mind, the concept we have developed is, according to me, best described as a supplier of experience. A mobile do-tank that collect experiences from users of the system (asylum seekers, refugees, newcomers), in order to supply the system (organized by the public sector) with experience, so that the system can be iteratively rebuilt – based on the experience of the system users.
Collecting and supplying experiences will of course entail difficulties – How do we ask for the experience? How do we understand the experience? How can we communicate the experience? And yet know that it is the experienced experience that we send out to the system? The concept and methods we use and design will participate in enacting the realities that we want to bring to the system (Law. 2004). How can we consider this without risking falsification of the collected stories that entail experience?
Supplying with experience is only partly the purpose of the concept. If we also allow the mobile do-tank to process the experience and ideate on suggestions of change, can we then provide a greater meaning for all involved? The mobile do-tank aims to invite, of the inquiry concerned, people (such as system users, public servants, politicians and others) to collaboratively build ideas for how an Enter Sweden System better can meet the different needs of asylum seekers, refugees and newcomers. By also supplying suggestions we argue that change is easier to get about, and that the issues automatically becomes visible through a strategy as such.
The aim of the do-tank is to become an empowering platform, not only due to its outcome of supply, but also due to the place specific situation that can emancipate the specific individual taking part of the co-creation explored. But by using participatory methods, we also have to consider the risk of continuing affirmation of identities that is created to legitimize the practices of power (Keshavarz, 2015). Even if it is easy to attack the symptom of boredom with uplifting activities (Svendsen, 1999), what if this do-tank could offer an activity that both attack the symptom and provide with ideas for structural change? We would like to think of the do-tank as a place where the individual is participating in forming new stories to fight old ones – ”If you accept the story you will also confirm and reproduce it” Nihad Bunar said on the conference in Varberg, why the content of the stories are the meaning making body of this concept.
Oil to the machinery
The do-tank is suggested to function as a mobile unit that follows the inquiry in order to meet the concerned people. The inquiries brought into the do-tank will be problematized by for example using our Experience Barometer. Learnings from the experience setting leads up to visionary workshops where new stories will be formgiven. The outcome of the Experience setting and the Vision setting will be what the do-tank supply. What concerns one may concern several, why we think that the do-tank should operate locally while its outcome can be directly sent to concerned person/organisation (locally or nationally) and/or displayed on a digital platform – serving as an open source of inspiration or archive of hands-on suggestions, to the public sector across the country.
To implement the do-tank and fully get it to supply relevant experience, perhaps it should be built up on regional basis, following the boarders of county councils (in Swedish landsting) and county governments (in Swedish länsstyrelser)? At least they are partly managing bodies of the connection between agencies and municipalities in the asylum- followed by the establishing system. But the regional devision within the agencies can differ widely. This matter has not been investigated in the frame of the project. Yet, the question of who should operate the do-tank is an important question, which will be returned to in the next section.
”It is important to feel that you are equally of value as everybody else. You risk to suppress yourself due to lack of language, hence it is very important to feel confirmed as a human.” (Bunar, 2016)
At the beginning of this project we set up the hypothesis that making visible the individual, as a confirmation of its existence, is a core key to enable changes in the system. Now, at the other side of the exploration I argue for its relevance on the ground of the embodied mind – the idea that reason and emotion; body and thought constitute one whole (on the contrary to the cartesian concept of mind) – ”the properties of the mind is not purely mental, they are shaped in crucial ways by the body and brain and how the body can function in everyday life.” And further – our body is intimately tied to what we walk on, sit on, touch, taste, smell, see, breathe, and move within (Dahlin, 2002). With this statement at presence, the asylum seeker with its everyday life in isolation and detachment to society, most likely will constitute an embodied mind without attachment to significance. If the body is held back into passivity and geographically placed in the backyard of society – how can the individual possibly motivate the feeling of being equally of value? How can recovering or resurrection of suppression as such come about?
Space of operation
With the idea of the embodied mind, the notion of space – where this do-tank will operate becomes crucial. The mobile do-tank will move and demand attention from (of the inquiry) concerned people. How can the mobile do-tank create a space that invite people both from the centre (public sector) and from the periphery (asylum seekers) and make them feel equally of value in this shared space? What level of aesthetic recognition is needed for the participators to accept the space and use it as a place to unfold experience and co-create future visions? Is it even possible to flatten power structures and co-create future visions?
If the embodied mind of asylum seekers have been inflicted by the spatiality of the accommodation on such severe grounds as our pre-study let us understand, there is reason to claim the do-tank to operate on a neutral ground (if that is a concept that can exist in this context?). Equally for the public sector, who of course consists of individuals with an embodied mind carrying influence of work-space and society – materially and socially, the space should invite aslo this (largely compiled) group to step outside the agency. If the space is equally familiar and unfamiliar, have we then created a space for co-creation? How can we judge this?
Where does the neutral ground exist? In the public space? What are the limits of use of a public space? If the do-tank would be occupying public space, physically demonstrating to the surrounding that matters on migration is now being discussed, what does that imply? Will it invite or deter participators?
Now, who should run a do-tank as such? The Migration Agency – who has arranged for an everyday life with the inflictions as noted in the above? Of course, the Migration Agency operates below the government – last responsible for the situation, but still – what does it imply if the agency, who supposedly is in charge of the asylum seekers current life and future, is the sender of the do-tank? Could it be good in the sense that the invitation can suggest a humble excuse and wish for a structural change? Or will it be perceived the opposite and cause silence, as the agency are managing their futures? What about the Employment Agency? The Social Insurance Agency? Who could be a managing body for a machinery like this? Could it be relevant to think of a body that is not public sector? In order to free voices more radically?
In contrast to the Migration Agency who are planning for a retreat of their in-house quality organ when they have reached their goal (now working on trying to understand their users and setting up quality orders in their processes), we think that this do-tank should be constructed with the understanding that experience is a fluctuation, it will constantly change. And with this understanding I believe it is relevant to think of the do-tank as a body that has a never-ending purpose of existence.
As aesthetics suggests to describe perception – then how the aesthetics is constituted must affect how we perceive? What feeds the other? Is our perception giving us form or is form giving us our perception? Chicken or the egg. Perhaps the chicken can not exist without its egg, hence both are of equal importance? Regardless, both the first and the second how should have something to do with our language of interpretation, i.e. our common way of adding or subtracting values, yes? In accordance with the embodied mind the aesthetics act as our stepping stone into a reflective self. How a space is formed most likely will affect what is perceived within it. And so, the aesthetics of the mobile space will play an important role in order to succeed with unfolding experience and envisioning new stories.
Questions on spatial invitation
How can a mobile do-tank look like to invite centre and periphery to a common ground? What is a common ground? What defines it common and who sets the rules of it? Is it in fact marking a space on the ground that defines it common? What if the space were built together – will the action of building a space connote it as common? Perhaps building the space together, also can have influence on group forming of the participators? Together building a stage to act on. A stage to unfold and refold. Unfold experience. Refold new stories.
How should the spatial situation be arranged so that hierarchies can be nothing but a distant memory for a short time? What level of recognition is needed to enable unfolding and refolding? Are there grounds for reinventing the round table? A round stage with a round table – stating a center of attention? How should the air of this space be considered? Is defining a space of air necessary to create a common ground? What shape of the air will constitute recognition?
The following suggestion of a how a mobile do-tank could look like, created as the final prototype of this project, should be looked upon as material aiming to discuss the spatial impact of the do-tank. The model presented is a reaction to the questions on spatial situations mentioned above. It is designed to serve as a physical reminder that space invites to performative acts. It is an attempt to extend my vocabulary and understanding on the influence of aesthetics in spatial context. On the other side of this materialization, moving towards a spatial understanding has been essential for my conceptualization of the project. If space act as the stage where objects (read material and immaterial objects) are placed and interacted with by people, then space is the context in which we understand the objects and so also its relations.
The result suggest a portable floor, that can be wrapped up on a couple of EU-pallets and transported in a small truck. With a floor as such, building the floor becomes the group setting event of the workshops. The floor contains different components that can be used in a large variety, depending on the needs of the group; stage, round table, sketching boards, different seatings and so on. The floor could be supplemented with a textile dome to also describe the air that the space i taking in encounter.
The time and realm of the project only allows the prototype to be read as a conceptual piece and does not suggest anything about the color or material in this shape. It is merely a discussion piece which extends into feasibility by multiple iterations.