Introducing Creative ‘Citizen’ Design & Muna.Co
During the first week of the module Creative Design we were introduced to the concept of ‘Citizen Design’ which in many ways reflects to objective of this module better than its official title. In the upcoming weeks we will focus on designing for and with stakeholders in the local community of the city of Genk. The aim of the project is to come up with a ‘creative’ design that will address the needs, wants and/or problems of people working/living in the local community who all strive to create a better future for Genk and bring the community together. This year there was a choice of three ‘projects’ to focus on during the module and our group chose to work with and for the initiative known as ‘Muna.Co’.
Muna.Co is a project initiated by Ilse Maes and in essence is a project that focusses on providing care for groups of people that have difficulties with fitting into society in one way or the other. This can range from people who come from a foreign background (and hence experience a language problem), to refugees, to homeless people and those with physical and/or mental disabilities. The project is multifaceted in the sense that it has more than one purpose and/or benefit. For some participants the projects with Muna.Co are ‘work’ for others the activities have therapeutical values whereas for some people it is simply a leisure activity and a way to get out of their homes and be in contact with people.
The project currently facilitates this by organising cooking workshops that often turn out to be catering jobs for events or festivals (ensuring that the output of the workshops doesn’t go to waste). The workshops are made accessible for all target groups by setting the ‘barrier to entry’ low enough so that those with the largest constraints can participate, making it automatically accessible for everyone with more ‘abilities’. The project also aims to never isolate groups of people (with a certain problem/disability) but aims to mix people from all sorts of backgrounds in their activities.
The project is working on organising different kind of workshops and plans to broaden their offer of workshops by the summer of 2016. There are existing plans concerning workshops focussing on smartphone photography, crafting jewelry, poetry and painting – aimed at creating a connection with art and culture.
Muna.Co is a relatively small and organic organisation that has grown based on a personal network and connections. The project has had great success and has grown faster than they had probably anticipated resulting in a somewhat unclear and unorganised communication system within the project. Aside from internal communication being what seems rather chaotic there also seems to be a problem with the communication from the organisation outwards to the community. Muna.Co recently received a fairtrade catering award indicating that the public views them as being a catering business – which is very far from what they are aiming to be. Cooking is merely the vessel that provides the care to the target group, it is not the core business – that is still providing care. Not having this correctly communicated to the community and society could also have unwanted economical and administrative consequences because treatment of caretaking organisations is different from catering businesses. It therefore seems like the organisation is in need of good and correct communication of its brand and brand values to society.