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Poliethical Design

We aim to empower (young) Colombian artisans so that communities can pave a way of their own, through co-creation with creative know-how.

Photo of Hendrikje Meyvis
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Our aim is to start a social design label, that allows us to co-design innovative product ideas through the set up of a knowledge exchange platform with artisans in Colombia. We will tackle the socioeconomic challenges these communities are facing in a post-conflict country, and will translate the application of their artisanal techniques into story-telling, attractive and useful products for the local and international markets. 1. Research During the first phase we will research the local environment and guide knowledge exchange sessions, where we gain deeper insight into the traditions, passions and talents of the artisans we will work with. We listen to the stories, we understand what they really want to tell and do, and what really has to change in their surroundings. We question them positively and make sure every talent is visible. The result of this first phase is an overview of their heritage and cultural traditions, their talents, passions and means, a deeper understanding of the arts & crafts industry of the local communities in Colombia, and the challenges and needs they are facing. 2. Workshops & Prototyping During the second phase, we set up creative labs to brainstorm ideas, and design labs to further develop and test them. The group consists of a mix of people of the community and experts in the fields of design, research and strategy/business development. We work as lean as possible: rather than talking and thinking for a very long time, we prototype, test, adjust, test,… The experts assist on both the services, tools and product creation as well as on the development of a sustainable business plan to translate the project into a solid and sustainable label and platform. 3. Completion & Access To Market During the third phase, we work towards a solid business plan to access the market in the areas of administration, organization, project management, communication, finance, etc.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The first beneficiaries are the artisans in Colombia. A side effect will be that the local economy of the areas where we work will benefit: a financial injection through the artisans can help the local economy flourish. Another side effect will be that the cultural heritage will remain and will be known broader over the world. The communities of artisans with whom we work will be able to show the talent of the community and the outcome of the projects. How will they benefit? The artisans will receive a fair loan, will be emancipated to pave their own path through entrepreneurship & will be able to work from the talents and the passion they have to face their challenges. Further, we will create awareness about the relevance of products that are long lasting, high-quality, useful, that respond to a human scale production and are sustainable, that are unique. Our products allow customers to experience satisfaction through storytelling & gain insight into the personal stories behind them.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

We will ensure that we co-create innovative products that, on one hand consider local cultural heritage, on the other apply innovative designs and technologies to them. We will strengthen the local economy and traditions, while we take advantage of nowadays globalized economy and technologies to reach a more complex market. By giving artisans access to i.e. on-line sales, by creating a business model that is current and relevant, sustainable and fair trade, and by providing a design aesthetic that is challenging but respects their craft, we bring in innovation in design. By working with a human-centered philosophy, we know that the products developed will tackle different issues the users (both the artisans and the consumers) are facing. Stimulating further artisanal production in Colombia can help communities to keep expanding the handcrafts knowledge. End-consumers will be able to buy meaningful products that are innovative, unique, useful, fair and with a human story behind.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

!DROPS is a social innovation agency, actively working towards a livable 21st century for everyone. We design services and tools to tackle societal challenges. We co-create with users and stakeholders as we know ideas become better when working together and challenges are best solved with those who experience them. In our work we focus on seven societal topics and are always looking for cross-overs: care, super-diversity, waste, new learning, urban innovation, education and global development.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Colombia is one of the richest countries on the planet in terms of natural resources and biodiversity. This is —in great part— due to an extremely diverse geography across the territory. It is interesting to observe that while Colombia as a whole comprises approximately 300.000 artisans and the quality and richness of the products is very high, the handcrafts industry hasn’t been formalized at all.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

PEACE: Recent political events have culminated in a peace agreement with one of the world’s oldest revolutionary armed groups, the FARC, putting an end to 52 years of civil war, one of the longest internal conflicts in history. The Victims Unit released a recent report where it indicated that about 7 million people were affected by the conflict in a country of 50 million. PROSPERITY: Literacy in Colombia is above 95%, but the indigenous & artisan communities have an illiteracy rate of 17%. From the 52% of traditional artisans that started primary studies, only 18% have concluded them. Only 3% of the people in this industry have technical superior or university studies. 24% of the entire artisan production is made exclusively by hand, while 57% of it is made only using simple tools. This is due to a high regard to the oral and family traditions in these communities & the fact that learning processes derive from personal implication & direct experience of the production methods.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We believe in collaboration and expertise exchange. This project is a collaboration with Hugo Herrera Tobón (Designer NL/CO/ES), Mariana Viera, (Designer CO), Value4Chain (sustainability experts, CO), and Artesanías de Colombia (The official handcrafts corporation of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce & Tourism of Colombia). Through this partnership, we will create a unique project, that profits from our different expertise’s and in our different locations. Hugo Hererra will do the artistic direction, graphic identity & communication design and will take care of the Product Design & Development. Mariana Vieira will be the product design & development in Colombia, in collaboration with local artisans & designers. Value 4 chain will be the main partner in Colombia in terms of business: they will manage the project in Colombia and the transport from Colombia to Europe. Artesanias de Colombia will be the local co-producer and guidance.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Colombia has been influenced by different cultures. This generated an extremely interesting kaleidoscopic social tissue in the country as a whole. Local traditions, religious and cultural beliefs, vary greatly across the different regions, and so does the use of their surrounding natural resources and selected materials. This rich indigenous culture is widely represented across regions through their handcrafts or artesanías, such as jewelry, vases and leather shoes and bags, ...

Geographic Focus

We will work with indigenous communities in Colombia. They are spread all over the country.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

We will need 20 months: PROJECT SET UP: 2 months - Establish team - Artistic concept & research - Budget WORKSHOPS COLOMBIA: 3 months - Organize & Conduct workshops - Presentations - Storytelling - Co-design - Round-up workshop investigation & Provide feedback to local communities TEST & PROTOTYPE: 7 months - Develop sustainable business plan - Product design - Prototyping - Production BRANDING & MARKET ACCES: 8 months - Label design - Communication & Sales

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dusti Becker

Hi Hendrikje Meyvis ! What a fascinating intersection bridging a rich cultural artisan heritage with collaborative social entrepreneurship. I am curious, if you envision scaling this project in the future to serve other indigenous communities?

Carrie (part of Dusti Becker 's team)

Photo of Hendrikje Meyvis

Hello @dustiebecker 's Carrie!
Thanks for your post. At this moment we want to focus on Colombia, but who knows that in the future we might expand. Do you have a particular idea in mind?
Warm regards, Hendrikje

Photo of Our Workshop

Hello! I think we should chat...

Please see our proposal Our Workshop: Making Togetherness as it could be that we are already prototyping a method that could be used in your work???

Where are you from Hendrikje ???

many thanks,
Heath Nash 

Photo of Hendrikje Meyvis

Hello Heath Nash we should definitely chat!!! I went through your idea and it sounds amazing!!! how shall we do that? When would you have time? Have a lovely day!!! ps: I'm based in Belgium (this project is a collaboration between Colombia, Belgium & The Netherlands)

Photo of Our Workshop

Hey there... THANKS!!!
I suppose we can start on email? We use facebook as a group - I could add you to the facebook group if you'd like??
and on instagram and facebook @ourworkshopct


Excelente iniciativa, en la Corporación Mundial de la Mujer Colombia hay un Centro de Diseño e Innovación donde están liderando la construcción de una metodología para trabajara con comunidades indígenas de Colombia, específicamente en el Choco, con el objetivo de conservar sus tradiciones generando y comunicando el VALOR para diferentes mercados. Te invito a que te comuniques con nosotros 57 (321)347-6387. MUY BUENA IDEA!!!