In the course of our work in Rwanda, several designers are sharing their thoughts on our experience together. Here’s what Sue Ngo had to say.
Even though it is my last night in Kigali, I am awake at 3:42AM still not adjusted to the time difference. Five days ago I flew 18 hours from NYC to Kigali to be part of a team of designers with an ambitious design brief — stop genocide.
Day One: Kigali Memorial Center Visit
After a team breakfast at the hotel, we headed from our hotel to the Kigali Genocide memorial built in 2004 by Kigali City Council and our hosts Aegis Trust. Our group walked in the sunshine through the well manicured gardens that housed the remains of about 259,000 people in fourteen mass graves. Flowers had been laid atop each grave by family members and from the community with banners that declared never again and peace in half a dozen languages.
After we had all gone through the indoor memorial exhibits, we gathered to interview Freddy Mutanguha, the Director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial. We went around the room to share our initial thoughts on the memorial with Freddy. When it came to my turn, I began to articulate my observations and suddenly I started trembling. I could never fathom 259,000 people dead, but seeing the photos, personal notes, intimate details and left over artifacts from the victims made the genocide brutally real for me. I could not continue my account, deferring to the designer next to me. Having just met most of these designers, and not accustomed to public displays of emotion, I considered this to be a sort of emotional trust fall.
Day Two: We ask how and why.
A group of us started the day at the weekly all-staff meeting for Aegis Trust. Aegis Trust is an international genocide prevention organization which maintains the Kigali Genocide Memorial, builds peace education programs for students and teachers, manages an audio visual archive of the stories from the genocide and supports essential social programs to aid those still living the repercussions of the genocide.
After the meeting, we conducted interviews with various staff members who led onsite youth workshops, teacher training workshops and the psychology program.
The leader of the Youth programs at Aegis Trust, Mark, told us “after death there is life”. He inspired me with his vision to create a global youth network by promoting the ‘Rwanda’s 20 Year Miracle’ and spreading Aegis’s model of empowering youth through action. His model was simple, train Rwandan teens to be ambassadors to other countries, such as the Central African Republic, to teach their peers about peace and reconciliation with the goal of preventing genocide.
Between our meeting with staff members we were introduced to a survivor.
We met Letitia. When she entered the room, her small build and youthful face made me mistake her for a teenager rather than a twenty seven year old mother of three. She was seven years old on April 7, 1994 — we could have been at the same primary school together. As she shared her story with us, one tragedy after another, all I could do was sit in awe of her strength to survive. I walked away with a deep desire to share her story with anyone who would listen.
How can we help as designers?
After completing two emotionally and physically grueling days of interviews and site visits, I was stunned when our leader Jason Ulaszek pulled out the sharpie and white board. I was further amazed and heartened by how we collectively synthesized everything we saw over the past two days into target users to focus on and larger question to tackle on our last day in Kigali.
Why are we here?
Yes, of course we want to prevent genocide from ever happening again. But more immediately, we want to build up these portraits of reconciliation and amplify the good work of Aegis Trust. We want to find relevant audiences and convey to them this powerful story of the Rwandan Miracle to prevent genocide from ever happening again.
Today, we will fill in the gaps of knowledge by conducting follow up meetings. Tonight, we will fly to London to start designing tangible solutions.
As the birds start to sing their morning songs and the sun rises outside my hotel room, I am hopeful we can accomplish what we set out to do. And if we don’t, it will still be enough.]]>
In the course of our journey to Rwanda, designer Laurel Hechanova of Findery stopped to capture some of her thoughts and feelings. This piece was originally published on the Findery site here.
1. Impostor Syndrome on Malarone
The group of us sat around a long row of tables on the back patio. We’d each finished a beer or two at this point—the first since getting off several consecutive planes for some of us and the first with the full group for all of us. We talked about how perfect the weather was that night and what malaria meds everyone was on.
Jeff welcomed and briefed us, then asked John to say something. John stood and started by thanking us for being there and for coming to do what we were about to do. He thanked us for our time and attention. He told us how important this work was to his organization and how privileged they felt to have us.
It wasn’t “thank you all for coming” as a perfunctory intro to something else. It was genuine and profuse.
I started feeling uncomfortable being on the receiving end of so much gratitude from someone who works to promote genocide awareness and prevention year-round. I thought about how my last week’s highlight was finally finishing Orange Is the New Black and how my biggest concern had been how my cats would fare when my fiancée and I were away in Palm Springs for the holiday weekend. Who did he assume I was? How did I end up here? Maybe they should’ve gotten someone else. Jeff had literally just said we might feel that way and that we were all meant to be here, but now I was concerned he’d been referring to the rest of the group.
At the end of the tour through the memorial this morning, we gathered ourselves in the center’s meeting room. As we settled, John introduced Freddy, Aegis Trust’s country director in Rwanda.
The young man sitting before us in a light gray suit and blue button-down shirt had survived the genocide as an orphan head-of-household.
Please take a moment to consider that phrase.
He’d been a teenager when all of this happened. As he spoke, I couldn’t shake the fact that I was looking at someone my age.
Freddy stood up to address us and started by thanking us for helping them, telling us how much it meant to him and the center. He was warm and sincere.
My stomach clenched. Everyone everywhere should be thanking you, I thought. I’d just spent the day trying to process the multitude of horrors he’d survived. I’d been demolished over and again by photos, video testimonies and remnants from its victims.
I stared at the floor in the middle of the room.
3. A Familiar Beat
Tonight, dinner was in an open area on the grounds of a youth hostel. We got out of our vans, ducked through a gate, passed three unattended conga drums in the middle of a wide walkway and picked seats and tables from a row of 30 beneath a large tree.
Stacey and I sat near the middle and watched someone start a fire in an oil barrel. We talked about the day. Today—everything—was a lot, maybe too much to digest. It was only the first full day, but we already wished we had more time. We couldn’t do enough research before we came no matter how much we’d read. What were we going to ask when we interviewed survivors tomorrow? How much are we even ultimately able to do?
In the middle of this, without introduction, three men in wrapped skirts and beaded straps across their chests began to hit the drums. The beat resonated across the concrete floor and walls, through our feet and against our chests and backs.
It reminded me of Guam. I fanlalai’an. It was too much. Everything in my small universe was too good. I leaned forward and tried to smile—to be visibly appreciative of the performance, but I was crying. I forced myself not to sob and shake so no one would ask me if I was all right because I couldn’t possibly absorb any more human warmth in that moment. There was too much of my home in a strange place. A shadow of unbelievable violence in a beautiful land. Too many smiles from strangers. Improbable warmth and kindness near mass graves of loved ones, lovers and friends. Bird chatter in the morning and large, atrocity-defying construction on the hills.
Soon others, women and men, filled out the group to sing and dance. For the last song, they pulled us out of our chairs to join them.]]>
Zak Orner is a part of our design team currently at work in Rwanda. He shared these recent thoughts with us.
It’s 4:37 AM, and I am powerless in Rwanda.
The streetlights are out. There is no internet. The hotel is silent. In Chicago the Blackhawks are playing a game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, and I am unable to check the score. No emails will be read bearing messages from home. No one can check in on me. I won’t be calling out.
Less than 48 hours ago I received the first stamp on my passport, and now I’m disconnected from the Western world. I don’t miss it.
My hotel window is open and a cool breeze is finally bringing down the temperature in what has been a hot room. I spent my first day here at the Kigali Genocide Memorial and it’s taken a while to process the anger, guilt, and helplessness that I’ve been feeling.
On April 6, 1994 I had just turned 14. My biggest concern was what clothes to spend my birthday cash on. The summer was coming and I needed to look sporty riding my bike to the mall. At that time in Texas the swoosh was king. From your hat to your sneakers, brand Jordan was the epitome of cool. I could never bring myself to wear it. My apparel of choice came with three stripes.
Here in Rwanda a plane had crashed that same day. It was background on the news. Soon headlines would be filled with an expression that still rolls easily off my tongue, “Acts of genocide have occurred.” In my teenage brain these words softened the blow of the violent images that flickered across the TV screen. My President was telling me it wasn’t our place to intervene. There wasn’t systemic genocide occurring, only isolated incidents. I never thought to question what I was hearing. After all, my mom had voted for him. I trusted in that, and in the institution that he held.
Yesterday in the memorial that trust was shattered by a pair of sweatpants.
The KGM tells its story well. It greets you with a peaceful time in Rwandan history, when all men were equal under a king. There are photographs of a smiling people, unaware of an ethic division. Europeans arrive, first from Germany, then from Belgium. Catholicism takes root. The king is killed. Noses are measured and people are divided by their looks or the number of cattle they own. One person is assigned a different value than another. The wealthier by property are aligned at the top; everyone else finds themselves in a class below.
The extremes of human emotion eventually arrive, pushing people into exile. Tensions smolder. Newspapers and cartoons serve as kindling on embers of resentment. Then the machetes arrive and grow dull with dark purpose. The UN fails to listen. The world turns its back as entire families are wiped out. Churches do not bring sanctuary, but slaughter, while a village witch becomes an unlikely hero.
The photographs of the dead line the walls here. Their skulls and their bones are encased in glass. They serve as artifacts of human tragedy that a country will never forget. It’s powerful, and moving, and aggravating. The depths of humanity laid out in testament.
Through all of this it is three stripes running down a pair of pants that haunts me. Hanging in a room at the center of the memorial, they belonged to a Rwandan abandoned by the people who brought those clothes into their world. Those sweatpants tell everything about the atrocity that happened in this country. Standing before them I felt worthless.
I am here in Kigali because the Aegis Trust, the foundation behind the memorial, has asked for the help of my colleagues and myself. We’re here for four days to learn about the history of this beautiful and imperfect country. Then we’ll spend another four days attempting to help them make a deeper impact on those who visit here. A gap exists between the intense emotion you feel in the memorial and the ability to do something with those feelings when you leave. It’s our job to find a way to bridge that gap. We expected coming in this task was impossible, and arrogant, and audacious. It is.
Yet the lesson of Rwanda is that the impossible is somehow possible. That an understanding of arrogance leads to the humbleness of change. And that audacious plans can be the only way to build a better tomorrow.
Drums fill the night air in Kigali. Sounds rise up of dancing and laughter. You hear the distinctive clink of beer glasses raised between friends. Every day the people of this city get up and start their day. They focus on living their lives. The wounds are there, and for some will never heal, but they move on. They find a way forward, a new purpose. To survive. To thrive. To be something greater than they were before.
When it became inconvenient for us we stopped listening to the people of this country. They looked to us for help and we blinked away the responsibility. Now they are asking for our help again, however small in the grand scheme our work may be. We have to start listening.
The sun is rising over the hills, and sounds of a city waking up remind me that I am not worthless. The lights are back on. It is time to get to work.
In Chicago the Blackhawks are playing a game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, and I am unable to check the score. No emails will be read bearing messages from home. No one can check in on me. I won’t be calling out.
It’s 5:43 AM, and I am empowered in Rwanda.]]>
Over the course of our journey, we’ll be publishing the thoughts and feelings of our team as they live out the design process. Here’s a piece by Matt Franks of the Austin Center for Design.
At AC4D, we are the evangelicals of ambiguity. Time and time again I’ve pushed people out the doors of the school with a single mission – go and explore the world around you. Immerse yourself into the cultures and problems to which we remain largely blind. Not by choice, but generally by habit. It’s our nature to become so comfortable in our routines that we don’t even realize what they are. I am no exception to this.
These moments of “motivation” are often met with disbelief & fear from the people we are forcing them upon. “What do you mean I have to go out and talk to people? Right Now? I just learned how to do this?”
We try and provide words of encouragement, but you can see the fear in their eyes.
They are participating in a process that is forcing them out of their comfort zone without any clear understanding of the outcome. They are required to blindly trust us.
I attempt to remain aware of this problem in my own life; occasionally making adjustments in my patterns as a means to discover the unexpected. Like many of the design researches I know, I think to myself “You understand aspects of the world that others do not”, “you are so informed”.
But my first 20 min in Rwanda as part of the UX for Good design challenge generated a realization that my “informed state” has largely been one of false enlightenment.
What I thought were the boundaries that defined my perspective – those that I attempted to subvert in the name of “immersing myself in problems & cultures”, were not even close to the boundaries I’ve come to identify as a result of traveling here.
Our initial decent into Kigali was in the evening, just as the sun started to set & the area moved into twilight. As we passed over the roof tops of small towns and villages, I couldn’t help but think they looked the same as the villages we saw while taking off in Brussels. Small clusters of white walls and red clay roofs that travel along the roads that connect them.
From 8,000 feet in the air, everything looks the same.
But as we approached the ground, an extremely unexpected difference in these clusters of homes stirred a panic that I have not felt in a long time.
There were no lights.
No visible lights in the street. No visible lights on the homes. Or so few that I could actually count the number of them between each village we passed. For anyone reading, this detail might seem like an expected observation. It does fall within the western narrative I’ve heard from friends and family before coming here; That Africa as a tarp ridden collection of unsafe villages. A narrative that is never explicitly stated, but always inferred. One of thousands of sweeping generalizations that I’m guilty of as much as the next person – and just as afraid to admit.
For me, the concept of limited electricity wasn’t what gave birth to paralyzing fear. If my computer dies, it’s not the end of the world. If I have trouble charging my phone, it’s not really a big deal. These are the first world problems that I’ve grown largely accustom to solving on a daily basis.
Rather, this small detail pushed me into a state of awareness, and sheer panic, that only comes with the realization that you are completely out of your element. That you are entering into a state of un-retractable ambiguity.
My irrational internal monologue went something like this:
I just crossed a boundary I was unaware of and I was letting my capacity for irrational narratives take charge.
As a designer, the goal is to cross these boundaries. To be immersed into a particular context, gain some form of empathy, and use that to create momentum towards solving a problem.
Ambiguity is the hallmark of a good design project. In lacking an understanding of the end state, we are awarded the opportunity to craft it.
But until this point, my experience with these “moments of unknown” have been supported by elements of familiarity. The invisible support structures I’ve unconsciously relied upon were suddenly gone. I have no team of trusted designers. I am not retiring to the safety of my home after a few hours of contextual research. I am not the facilitator who can choose to end the interview if things take a turn for the negative.
All I have is trust; to trust in the process I preach & the people that I meet.
I am now one of the growing number of student’s I’ve kicked out the door with a call to action to “embrace the unknown”, and I can once again empathize with the fear associated in doing this.
As I embark on this project, I hope the unexpected remains constant. I hope to exercise my capacity as a creative thinker in ways I have yet to imagine, and to maintain this state of ambiguity for as long as possible.
However uncomfortable, this process creates moments of reflection, clarity, and opportunity that provide me with the motivation to keep doing it.]]>
UX designer Stacey Harbin of Manifest Digital will be a part of our team headed to Kigali and London. She answered some of our questions by e-mail ahead of the Annual Challenge.
What experiences from your career as a designer seem most relevant for the project we’re taking on together?
At this point, it’s hard to say which areas we’ll need to draw on most as we work through the challenge. We may need to apply our skills in a different context. For instance, we’ll need to analyze mental models, not in the context of a user’s interpretation of a UI, but in the context of how a person imagines themselves – how they see their place in the world in relation to others, and how that perception influences their actions. We’ll also need to think about conversion outside of the usual commercial context.
What have you been doing to get ready for the trip to Rwanda and London?
I’ve been absorbing as much information as I can. In addition to reading Philip Gourevitch’s detailed chronicle of the events in Rwanda, I’ve been watching documentaries and reading articles about genocide in order to piece together different perspectives on why these atrocities happen. What are the warning signs? What are the triggers? Why has the international community been so slow to act in the past? How do we decide when to take action in the future, and what is that action? How will we know if we’re doing more harm than good? These are all questions that we’ll think about together as we work through this challenge. I want to prepare for these discussions by assembling a working knowledge of the history of genocide, so that as a group we can start to draw connections across experiences and identify previously unexplored opportunities for promoting empathy in the world.
Tell us about one of the other designers that you’re looking forward to meeting or working with.
The more I learn about the people heading out on this year’s challenge, the more excited I get about the chance to work with them. This is such a diverse group of designers – everyone brings something unique to the table. I’m humbled to be included in this group and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with everyone and learning as much as I can.]]>
In this year’s Annual Challenge, we’ll approach a problem more complex than any we’ve ever tackled before. Crain’s Chicago Business asked our co-founders Jeff Leitner and Jason Ulaszek how they wrap their heads around the scope of what we’re trying to do. Here’s what they had to say.
Jeff Leitner: “We have a sort of general operating principle, which is to jump off the high dive. We are confident that we will make a dent in this. Are we confident that through this project we will eradicate genocide from the face of the earth? Of course not. But we’re confident that we can make a dent.
The idea it that education is necessary but insufficient to get people to behave in a way that helps to end genocide. If you come out of a Holocaust museum or another genocide memorial, you have profound feelings. The problem is we need to create a sort of solar panel to convert that profound emotion into meaningful and sustainable action. No one’s really cracked that yet, so that’s what we’re out to do.”
Jason Ulaszek: “Our designers can serve as a catalyst. These folks that we are bringing to the table are systems thinkers, designers who think about how everything comes together, and how to organize it in a way that it has the most impact and value. They’re going to think tactically about what, in the for-profit world, is called conversion. It’s looking at how to understand the underlying motivation and emotion (generated by current genocide education), and then connecting design with that to create a behavior to extinguish an action.”
For the full piece, click here.]]>
As part of the UX for Good Annual Challenge in Kigali and London, we’ll be joined by Matt Franks of the Austin Center for Design. He answered a few questions via e-mail about the work ahead of us.
What would you like the team you’ll be working with to know about you?
I wake up every day excited to dream and create.
The opportunity to conceive of “what could be” is the driving force behind my approach to design. While every project I’ve had the fortune to participate in required rigor, execution and collaboration, the best projects had a tone of humility. This enabled the team to focus on refining “the” idea, through shared ownership and iteration, rather than seeing “their idea” come to reality.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my career surrounded by individuals who I would regard as more capable than myself in so many capacities. My strength as a designer is realizing where others are better and giving them the ownership to carry the dream.
What are you the most excited about in the next two weeks?
I’m excited to be working on a problem whose solution is in no way obvious. Arguably, a wicked problem like genocide has no single solution. But as designers, we hope to gain empathy and clarity so that we might impact a small part of the problem at large.
What principles or methodologies from UX do you think will be really important to this project?
There isn’t a principle or methodology from UX that will be our single guiding light in this project. The design team will have to use, and excel at, every aspect of the user-centered design process to make something meaningful in the context of genocide.
The team’s ability to support narrative & contradiction will be our two biggest allies. We could spend a lot of time searching for a black and white answer, but that will never come. A wicked problem like this has no clean boundary to which we can judge from afar.
Try as we might to define every problem in a binary fashion — good and evil, right and wrong — we will continue to find situations in which our logic breaks down.
I’ve met victims of rape and sexual assault who want their perpetrator brought to justice – yet in some capacity still genuinely care for them.
I’ve seen ranking officials unable to make a decision on the fate of a family that contains members who are in the country illegally.
Ultimately, we must embrace the varying shades of grey that comprise the human experience in order to make meaningful change.
We will have to come to terms with our aspirations of “solving” the problem as a whole, and instead, find aspects of the problem that we hope to mitigate and qualify our decisions with the narrative of those with whom we wish to affect.]]>
Patrick DiMichele of Manifest Digital will once again be joining us for a UX for Good Annual Challenge. He shared his thoughts about our upcoming work together over e-mail.
What are you most excited about in the next few weeks?
First off, I’m humbled to be involved. The ambition of what we’ve set out to do is daunting and I’m both grateful to be a part of it and anxious to get started. I think this trip will be a truly once-in-a-lifetime sorta thing and it’s impossible not to be excited (and nervous) about that.
I’m also excited (and nervous) about contributing in ways that move beyond signing a petition or swiping a credit card. I plan to do my damnedest to ensure the value of the ideas and insights generated during the challenge far exceeds the cost of the time and money dedicated to making the event happen.
Finally, I’m excited (and nervous) about what happens when we come back home. In the run-up to the event we’ve connected with dozens of people interested in helping refine and expand the ideas generated during the event. Collaborating with a big group of volunteers to turn ideas into reality will be a challenging and fun adventure in and of itself.
How do you think this year will be similar to or different from previous challenges?
The challenge last year was about designing ways to help something positive flourish. Every interview, interaction and observation I was a part of during the event was invigorating. The excitement was palpable and the team was definitely energized by that. So really, we just needed to find ways of channeling our enthusiasm into ideas and action.
This year will be something else entirely. I’m sure we’ll see wonderful things that have emerged from tragedy and hear inspiring stories of compassion and survival. But I’m equally sure we’ll see the aftermath of one of the darkest periods in history and hear first-hand accounts of truly horrible experiences. Which will be bewildering, heart-breaking, and enraging. Those emotions will likely serve as a very different type of motivator. Hopefully fuel the team can again convert into ideas and action.
What strengths do you think the discipline of design brings to this project? Are there any aspects of the challenge that you think may pose a particular challenge for designers?
I think designers are great at finding simple solutions to complicated problems. And while this is certainly a highly complicated problem (and that is certainly a gross understatement) I think it’s possible the team will emerge with new perspectives and potential solutions.
As for challenges inherent in the challenge, I’m worried about stamina. Both the physical toll that comes along with long journeys and the emotional toll that comes along with exposure to abject sadness. It’s going to be a long week in every sense of the word.]]>
Roberta Tassi of the international design group frog will join us for the UX for Good 2014 Annual Challenge. Here are some of her thoughts on the project.
What are you most excited about in the next few weeks?
I know there is going to be a moment in which we will feel individually too small for such a challenge. I’m really looking forward to the energy of the group and see how together we will make sense of that complexity, surprise each other with new ideas, bring order in our thoughts, share personal experiences and perspectives. It’s going to be a total immersion, and I can’t wait to be hemmed-in.
What experiences from your career as a designer seem most relevant for the project we’re taking on together?
I have had significant experiences running design and immersive research in developing countries. The most important one took place last year, working on a social innovation project called Backpack PLUS (http://unicefstories.org/model/chwbackpackplus/), where frog collaborated with UNICEF and other partners to design a systemic solution that could empower Community Health Workers at a global scale. The intensity of the extensive amount of time spent in the field (in Uganda and Senegal), the combination of research and design in an ongoing iterative process continuously bridging insights and solutions and the strong collaboration established with all the partners and organizations involved make Backpack PLUS a hero story of human-centered design.
Beyond design research, I strongly believe in the use of visualization as a tool to facilitate processes and manage complexity, embracing a system thinking approach. That’s started with my graduation thesis and the opening of Service Design Tools (www.servicedesigntools.org), which is a collection of tools that support designers dealing with complex and intangible items, like services and ecosystems. I don’t know a different way to start a discussion than drawing a graph on a white wall, or sketching a framework on a piece of paper.
Tell us about some of the things you’ve been doing to get ready for our journey together.
I did spend time watching documentaries, like Ghosts of Rwanda, but also scanning my memories to recall similar tragic events in the history that feel closer or that I got in touch with.
Walking in the streets of Sarajevo surrounded by white tombs, entering Gulag 36 in Perm (Russia) clammed up by the empty silence, writing a diary page seated on the Holocaust memorial in Berlin — I started to ask myself how we deal with our own historical memory, as single individuals and as populations, and how it does or does not influence our actions and opinions.]]>
Over the next two weeks, we are going to go through some profound experiences together. We will visit countries we’ve never seen before. We’ll hear stories of personal tragedy and triumph, of redemption and reconciliation. And we’ll be reckoning with one of the most shocking events of our lifetimes, the Rwandan Genocide.
As we go through these sometimes overwhelming emotional experiences, it is imperative that we stay focused on the problem we’re trying to solve. The stories of genocide survivors will naturally inspire empathy in us and make us ask how we would have behaved in their place, or how we might have acted to stop their suffering. As problem-solvers, we’ll also be drawn to the difficulties facing the curators of the museums and memorials we visit, wondering how we could serve them as “clients.”
But the problem we’re trying to solve isn’t just genocide and isn’t just museums. Rather, it’s the gap between the way we remember the genocides of the past and how we act to prevent the genocides of the future. It’s a poorly understood and shifting space, which is exactly why we think UX designers are the right people to explore it.
Sometimes the problem is memory. Many of history’s most brutal mass killings are poorly documented or not well-known by the general public. For example, the slaughter of Armenians during World War I occurred before the word “genocide” existed and before international law recognized it as a crime. Today, many of the descendants of those displaced by the genocide justifiably feel that simply recognizing the tragedy would be a sufficient goal. The challenges of understanding the history of each individual genocide on its own terms is real; how do we reconcile the need to accurately document the past with the equally pressing need to act in the present?
Sometimes the problem is feeling. In the decades following World War II, a robust culture of commemoration and reflection has grown up around the Holocaust. Academics, artists, and writers have devoted their entire careers to chronicling the atrocities that occurred under the Nazi regime. Most people in the Western world are familiar with the facts of what occurred, and it’s not uncommon to hear how Holocaust museums and memorials provoked overwhelming emotional responses even in people who have no personal connection to the event. Like all emotions, these feelings are individual and complex; how do we respect the feelings evoked by the memory of past tragedies while also providing opportunities to turn such feelings into action now?
Sometimes the problem is action. Despite the anthem of “never again,” the world has stood by during many instances of mass slaughter in the modern era, in nations like Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda. Just looking at the past decade or the past year, the number of countries that have faced a risk of genocide or gross human rights abuses is overwhelming. Even when we have gathered accurate facts about the past and the present, even when we have summoned the emotional resolve to stop the next genocide, exactly which actions we ought to take as individuals and as nations remains uncertain. You should consider this question — what actions should actually be taken to stop genocide? — as part of your remit.
How should we remember? How should we feel? How should we act? Together, these questions make up the gap, and it’s your challenge as designers to map users’ journey across it — or imagine a journey that no one has yet undertaken.
In the days before we embark on this quest together, our team of provocateurs will be talking with leading experts in the field to find out what they know about these questions. All of this knowledge will be incorporated into the final document produced by this year’s Annual Challenge. During the time you spend with survivors, witnesses, and museum curators in Rwanda, we urge you to reach your own understanding of their experience. As we transition to the work of designing together in London, feel free to talk with the provocateurs in order to examine what you have learned in the context of the broader problems of remembering and preventing genocide. By the day of our final presentation, everything we have learned will inform the designs we present to Aegis Trust.
Until then, we encourage you to think about “the gap.” In between your last round of vaccinations or maybe while you’re packing your bag, consider all that you have learned in your diverse experiences as designers. What is the difference between knowledge and feeling? What moves different types of people from feelings to action? We encourage you to bring anything you have learned from any aspect of the design discipline to this work we’re doing together, because we have no doubt it is a project that will truly take all we’ve got.]]>