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    Posted: 9 September 2020

    Social Design projects often involve a mix of different professions, interests and backgrounds. Creatives enter unknown contexts where communities, that have a certain culture and history, have to deal with each other. Fieldbacks is a series of events to develop a social design sensibility before, in the meanwhile and after a social design intervention. What questions should we ask ourselves before starting such projects? How do we evaluate the impact? What is the role of NGO ( and other actors ) in those interventions?

    What started in 2019 with a risky open call to do “social design interventions” in a refugee camp in Lesbos obviously did not result in an entirely planned and prepared excursion and body of work. On site, the communication wasn’t always well facilitated between artists, ngo, camp and residents. The team of artists was transparent about this, when they presented their work later on in public moments and from then on questions about when to interfere in and how to prepare for such projects became the new focus. We decided to turn the field hacks we did into fieldbacks, a format where we take focus on social design intervening in communities of people that oneself is not familiar with. Fieldbacks is giving feedback for passed or ongoing case-examples of field work in design as well as preparing for upcoming projects.

    Together with an experienced team from the sectors of social design, art, education and technology we plan frequent events around real case examples of design projects. The evnts participants are always personages who stand in relation to the case. This can be for example the designer who worked in the same place before, teachers and students, institutions who give money and direction to the project, workers, politicians and people who stand in focus of the respective project. The rich experience and collection of important viewpoints enables us to collect valuable questions, answers and rapid models in a short amount of time, to give a good base for related upcoming social design actions.

    Each session is documented and evaluated as the row of events are aiming to create a new approach to the portfolio of social design projects and open call initiating social field work in design. How can social design projects be communicating productively and transparent of its reality and still be perceived as convincing examples of good works. Why is it social design that should do the job and not another profession? How can social design actors work together for better working circumstances? How can institutions initiate the right projects and facilitate the right network of involved parties?

    Besides the main goal a fieldbacks session might also result in micro collaborations with the partnering guests. Until now Fieldbacks sessions were held around case examples of:

    Design Academy Eindhoven and Hivos
    “Can the Platform be the/a field?”

    It is not long ago that we experienced a global pandemic and travel or even physical contact had to be stopped and reconsidered elementary. A lot of work is being relocated to online platforms and virtual communication tools. Most measures to prevent further outbreak are being loosened by now but social design projects had to rapidly adapt and started to consider their methods drastically. In reaction Hivos and the DAE created an online platform to collaborate with creative and alternative schools on a global scale. Instead of travelling for short periods to unknown countries and getting to know local collaborators for mutual projects on site, they work now in their respective space being connected via online means. Right after the launch of the platforms beta version the fieldbacks event posted questions like: When is it more important to be face to face? When is it more important to visit a place? When is it beneficial and more appropriate to use the platform instead of seeing each other, considering the environmental impact of traveling for example? What kind of social design is needed for these sort of platforms? How would social design look like if performed remotely? Can we talk of tele-social design? How can we integrate this way of working in our usual practice?

    You can listen to the audio documentation of this session here:



    Baltan Laboratories · fieldbacks no1: the platform as the/a field



    Arvid and Marie in artist residence Recreatie Reinaerde “the current covid 19 circumstances and designing in an institution for mental disabled people”

    Shortly before the artist duo Arvid and Marie started their residency at the Recreatie Reinaerde program, a program that uses design and art to improve care within an institute for mental disabled people, we held a preparational fieldbacks event. The founders of the program and a former participating designer joined the working session. This time field backs was divided in two parts: Firstly one theoretical part to have a dialogue about what one needs to know about the current situation in the institute and how design might fit and add up to it. Secondly a row of on site interventions by members of the fieldbacks team. Based on the insights of both parts, Arvid and Marie will now proceed with their own project during the residency and fieldbacks can test the impact of their preparational events. Here you can listen to the audio documentation of this session and some visual impressions:


    Baltan Laboratories · Fieldbacks no. 2: Re-Creatie Reinaerde



    Fieldbacks will result in a conference presenting the outcomes of all events and channeling them into newly generated social design projects and working manners. Until then wait till the next fieldbacks event pops up in September/October. If you have a case example of a social design project that fits into the quest of our fieldbacks events, please contact us via leif@baltanlaboratories.org Fieldbacks is an initative by Baltan Laboratories, social design studio Joes + Manon, artist duo Arvid and Marie, research director and founder of design studio Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken Jop Japenga, designer and musician Meis Suker, participation designer Leif Czakai and curator Lorenzo Gerbi.
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