When we finally meet…. Our design/research meeting in Groningen

Design research meeting in Groningen

by Loes Damhof

After working online for more than a year, we kept our fingers crossed for our planned meeting in Groningen on October 13 and 14. International travel nowadays forces us to be more flexible than ever, to seize the opportunity when there is a window and when restrictions are lifted. How one virus can dictate our lives becomes more and more a reality. But here we are. 

Groningen,  at Hanze University, in the beautiful Art Academy, but tucked away in a tiny room where the smell of paint faintly lingered. Greece, Italy, Poland, Uk (with a Brazilian touch) and of course The Netherlands gathered in that room. And as always, a space also partly dictates the meeting. It wasn’t fancy or large, but we could open the window and we could see all the three major towers of Groningen from our window, against a blue sky. Oh how we appreciate the little things these days!

Our schedule was fully packed. Introductions, meetings, discussions, lunches, dinner, a Lab, more meetings and discussions. Day one started with a presentation of IO1: the design principals, by FORTH, and a discussion on the statements that hadn’t reached consensus during the Delphi process. This took most of the morning till lunch. Longer than anticipated, yes. More discussions, other ideas, building on each others ideas… This is the benefit of being together. It may not save time at first, but it does something else. Being present adds to the collective wisdom. Besides expressing ideas, we add facial expressions, energy, body language, social dynamic, humor and we build a rapport. We slowly come to understand where the other comes from. Connections with earlier meetings are made.

We sense more, but things also make more sense.

Our first day was very fruitful, moving after lunch towards the design of the workshops in IO2, led by BUT. This felt like a free brainstorm: building on each others creativity, which got more of a boost by the arrival of Pedro. We ended the meeting feeling energised, not in the least by the improv energiser of Jitske. We were ready to spent some social time together.

Our dinner was at a small lunch restaurant that opened its doors for us. Surrounded by curious memoralia and plants we were free to walk around, talk, and laugh. The evening ended on a high note: on top of the FORUM, the vertical and spiral living room of Groningen, looking over the city and its lights. 

Design research meeting in Groningen

Day two started with a short Futures Literacy Lab of four hours, facilitated by HUAS. It that had two objectives: to introduce the rest of the team to Futures Literacy as practiced by HUAS, and to gather new insights on the Future of Professional Development. A wonderful opportunity to try out some physical activities and to listen to the perspectives of three wonderful students. The Lab also deepened our understanding of each other as partners: to see each other at work, to negotiate shared meaning and to exchange ideas on a meta level. 

And.. to be playful, to be light, to experience the joy of futures work. To be open to emergence

After lunch it was back to the world of planning and preparation, since we need to walk on both legs. Deadlines that could have been daunting, if it was not for the gentle approach of BUT. There was work ahead of us. Products to be developed, deadlines to be met. And finllay time to say goodbye after two intense and fruitfull days.

Now, being back in the virtual world of busy agendas and the occasional coffee meetings on Friday, the memory of our meeting fades away. What remains is the anticipatory joy of what is yet to come.

Design research meeting in Groningen