Agents of Action: Rebuilding the Future

Umeå Institute of DesignNetherlands
2021 People's Choice Award
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Concept / Student

Team

Toby Whelan

Overview

More than ever, young people are raising their voices on issues they care about. From Extinction Rebellion to FridaysForFuture, there’s a worldwide movement of children getting involved in activism. This new generation have opened our eyes to the power of children’s voices – showing us that they should be our role models. They’ve made it clear that for human life on Earth to continue, we all need to make big changes.

But activism isn’t just about big societal change. With children, the powerful change happens within; through activism, you learn about yourself, about others, and about the world you live in. This seed, planted early, causes growth into socially engaged, responsible citizens. Design has a responsibility to invest in the thinkers, makers and doers who will build our future society.

Agents of Action is an activist project platform, facilitating an ‘activism sprint’ to help children engage in activism in a playful, understandable way.

Activities are broken into bitesize chunks, guiding you step-by-step through the process of an activism sprint. Definitions and examples help make tricky concepts like ‘what is activism?’ and ‘making change happen’ easy to understand for first-time activists.

Although the interactive instructions are digital, the focus remains on the physical world. Sketching with pen and paper, acting with your body and talking to people around you are the core materials of every activity. Projects can be logged and shared, creating a global collection of projects for inspiration. Safeguarding is key for any online platform for children, particularly when socio-political ideas are encouraged. As such, the networked part of the platform allows no interaction between users, placing the emphasis on real-world connection.

The system is designed with respect for individual’s values and beliefs: rather than imposing a set of values, Agents of Action encourages children to explore what is important to them, consider different points of view, and reflect on their actions.

 

Impact

As well as enabling ‘Generation Greta’, Agents of Action’s accessibility helps children who may not be exposed to activist ideas organically to engage. Operating at a hyper-local scale, children can have considerable impact on those in their most immediate spheres: at home and at school. The fundamental change, however, happens internally, and over time affects a far wider impact. Agents of Action aims to help children take the first step towards rebuilding the future.

Craft

In collaboration with LEGO, this project explores how children can empower themselves through activism. Workshops investigated how children’s playful imagination and strong moral compass creates a sense of transformational optimism about the future. This revealed that structuring activities as an at-home activism project led to greater intentionality and learning.

Focusing on children aged 8-12, prototypes were tested with families remotely and asynchronously, mirroring the home use context. Here, the messy nature of domestic life was apparent, with parents struggling to commit time to facilitate long activities. A key principle for the concept was for any activities to be self-run by kids, creating a gameful experience rather than an adult-to-child education.

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