PEOPLE workshop at WWNA – Sustaining Cities
As the cherry on top and the grand finale of the project’s funding period, the PEOPLE team took part in the 7th Why the World Needs Anthropologists symposium in Oslo, Norway. Over the three days, we connected with and learned from researchers, practitioners, students, business and industry representatives, all invested in Sustaining Cities, the topic of this year’s event. In the symposiums’ workshop session, our team transferred their learnings on university-industry cooperation, designing and managing collaborative research and development projects in a hands-on PEOPLE workshop. The workshop might be noted in historical annals as the final public event of the Knowledge Alliances’ PEOPLE project. But simultaneously, as an important step in building the PEOPLE community and transforming PEOPLE into a movement, it also marks a new beginning.
The PEOPLE project has had a long-lasting and productive partnership with the Applied Anthropology Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA AAN). PEOPLE has contributed to all three WWNA events, organised during the project’s lifetime: we were Powering the Planet in Durham, UK (2017), Designing the Future in Lisbon (2018), and finally, Sustaining Cities in Oslo (2019). PEOPLE team member, Dr Dan Podjed is also the founder of EASA AAN and WWNA symposium and continues to serve as its Executive Advisory Board member, which we are immensely proud of.
Between 25 and 27 October 2019, approximately 300 attendees explored the underbelly of green and smart cities, questioning and challenging these ideals, looking into infrastructures of urban spaces and narrating the contradictions and compromises of life in cities (WWNA).
The PEOPLE workshop was convened by Marrije Prins (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Dr Sara Arko (Metronik), with the support of PEOPLE team members Maud Merrinboer, Assist Prof Dr Giulia Sinatti and Assoc Prof Dr Ellen W. Bal (all three Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). The aim of the workshop was to demonstrate how people-centred development approaches can be applied in industrial, practical and real-life settings and how anthropology can bring value to product or service design and development process. In particular, we focused on sustaining and managing interdisciplinary and cross-sector R&D teams. Researchers may be very well acquainted with planning and conducting long term research projects, often in the style of the lone anthropologist, spending a year or so in the field then taking another year to analyse and “write up” the research results. In a collaborative R&D project, however, research forms only one part of the collaboration process and is often conducted in interdisciplinary teams. Additionally, there is a number of stakeholders involved, which may include local government organisations, funders, industry partners, civil society organisations, and – last but not least – the intended recipients of the solution being developed within such a project (e.g. residents in a particular urban area, citizens using the public transportation system).
Following the initial presentation of the PEOPLE project, the 20+ participants (students, academics, and practitioners) were divided into four mixed groups, each assisted by one of the PEOPLE team members. The teams collaboratively identified specific urban challenges and were in continuation guided through the process of initiating, organising, planning, delivering and evaluating their specific case study. In conclusion, the four groups presented their plans to other workshop participants in the form of a short pitch.
PEOPLE project’s three-hour workshop at WWNA 2019 sparked a number of creative and innovative ideas, and initiated a dialogue on university-industry (or government) cooperation in research and development. We would like to thank all the participants for their active engagement and sharing the insights from the PEOPLE workshop on the conference’s concluding plenary session.
Photos: Giulia Sinatti