Within the program What If Lab, VNG Realisatie connects designers to questions that municipalities are struggling with. The concept gets developed on a small scale, and at a later stage it can be applied to several municipalities.
morgenmakers develops their concept within the small scale of the municipality Hoeksche Waard; an island just south of Rotterdam. At this moment Hoeksche Waard consists out of 5 municipalities, 17 villages, but from the first of January 2019, Hoeksche Waard will become one single municipality.
The residents of a street, neighbourhood or the village are the people that make the community what it is. Their companies, organisations, activities and social involvement ensures a more cohesive society. How do we ensure that within the new bigger municipality these initiatives do not get lost? And how do we ensure that everyone can participate? In other words: how do we design a process that prevents exclusion and the creation of social-bubbles? This challenge was submitted by Rien Smits, an employee of one of the current municipalities.
To answer this question morgenmakers developed: I’m In, a Kickstarter for new connections. This is a digital platform, a program with activities and - as a unique ingredient - a golden ticket for everyone.
Everyone gets a golden ticket, and a personal code. With this code you can win things, but you can also get invited to talk about a specific subject, do something for someone else, or get invited to an (existing) event. Through the randomness of codes you always get surprising and mixed groups, you create unexpected encounters and you create new links outside of existing structures. The ticket invites you to places you probably wouldn’t go to otherwise. When morgenmakers first pitched their concept the judge said: “The tickets give the concept a twist, it introduces residents to get to know the world around them, it is playful and seductive. And it is the key to discover new connections and to cross borders”.
The ticket-program, but also other initiatives, are placed on a digital platform. morgenmakers will work together with Voor Een Mooie Stad, an initiative of two inhabitants from Hoorn. They built a successful digital platform on which people can start initiatives, find supporters, help others, and build a community together.
A video on Danish television gave some inspiration. We have more in common with each other than we often think, building bridges between existing groups and structures.
Iterations and adjustments
Designing is a process of constantly shaping, polishing, diverging and converging. To design for people you need to understand what moves them, what they think and feel. To get a good understanding of the residents of Hoeksche Waard, morgenmakers went on a field trip and had many conversations with the residents of the villages.
Pop-up lab Hoeksche Waard
morgenmakers created a pop-up lab and visited several busy places in Hoeksche Waard, such as the market in Oud-Beijerland, the annual party week in 's Gravendeel and at the supermarket in Klaaswaal. Dozens of passers-by told morgenmakers about what they are proud of, how they meet others, and whether they sometimes feel left out. The designers of morgenmakers also spoke more extensively with a number of 'key figures'; residents that have a lot of (social) connections in Hoeksche Waard.
Many interesting stories were collected. For example, the owner of the Spar supermarket in Piershil organizes a lot of things in the village. A friendly couple told us about how they organize a dinner each month for lonely elderly people, and now have a waiting list due to a shortage of volunteers. An entrepreneur in another village set up a taxi service using an electric car. One woman said that she did not feel welcome at activities in her own village. And almost everyone complained that there is nothing organized for young people.
Test evening with residents
The existing structures in Hoeksche Waard are strong and rigid. There are many initiatives, but not everyone feels welcome. During an evening with residents, organised by morgenmakers, this was confirmed. "Cooperation is challenging" said one of the residents. Another: "We have a very nice social system, but quite some people fall in between the cracks." Most of the participants who were invited with a golden ticket are enthusiastic about I’m In and mainly opportunities were discussed. "That ticket makes you curious. You should make it big and gold too!” Smiling: "Hey, did you see that golden ticket in the mailbox? You definitely want to take a quick look!". At the end of the evening the atmosphere was cheerful: In Hoeksche Waard a group of residents are enthusiastic to get started working on further development of I'm In.
From prototype to pilot
During the Dutch Design Week the prototype of I'm In can be seen at the exhibition stand of VNG Realisatie at Klokgebouw. The newly formed municipality of Hoeksche Waard is enthusiastic about I'm In. Recently, the municipality has asked the designers of morgenmakers to set up a pilot in the municipality for 2019. The next step is getting pilots in several different municipalities. After all, how would this work in, for example, a city district or a village with a single centre? Anyway: I'm In!