UnSchool Berlin Day 5 group outside

Fellows started off Day 5 exploring in two groups. Kathleen's group walked along the Spree River, with Jan, the co-founder of the Flussbad project, which is working to make the river swimmable again. Up until the 1920s the Spree River was a community space used for bathing but it was shut down as the river became too polluted via industrial waste and personal litter. The project is about much more than swimming and fun (though it welcomes that as well with its annual test swims!) as it has a strong political dimension: It is about reclaiming the city center for Berliners, and making public water accessible to the public again. 

Whereas a lot of the city's funds and efforts are being directed towards projects that remember the past, and Flussbad's project – filtering the water and building a shore so it can be reached – is one that looks towards a sustainable future. 

UnSchool Berlin Spree River Flussbad

Leyla's group went on an Observational research excursion through Alexanderplatz, looking out for and taking notes of all the systems and design decisions around them. (Trampolines built into the street were a definite highlight – a great example of how play can be embedded into the city landscape!) One fellow said that this observational research activity "blew her mind and rearranged the way she thought about the world."

UnSchool Berlin Day 5, exploring Berlin
UnSchool Berlin fellow Carla, observational research

Back at Ahoy, after everyone had a chance to fuel up (coffee! snacks!), Leyla dove into a hybrid session that combined 3 key modules of the Disruptive Design Methodology: Making Change, Cognitive Science, and Language & Influence . We explored what motivates people, walked through various theories on behavior change, effective PR(opaganda) campaigns, some cognitive science and more. Did you know that oxytocin (the "love hormone") and cortisol (the "stress hormone") regulate each other? (So if you’re incredibly stressed out and your cortisol levels are high, you can lower your stress by seeking out oxytocin; an 8-second hug will do the trick!)

One key take-away from the session was that it is a waste of energy to focus on changing somebody’s behavior; if you want to change people’s behaviors you have to understand the systems they operate in and change the norms that they subscribe to.

Before wrapping, fellows did a quick partner activity based on word-associations, revealing the power of language and building empathy.

UnSchool Berlin Day 5, mentor session Nynke Tromp

After lunch, we had a very interesting session with our mentor Nynke Tromp, a social designer who is passionate about the power of design in counteracting social problems. She invited us to question what "normal" behaviors are, and how design mediates our relationship with the world. (What's the difference between normal behaviors in an abnormal world and abnormal behaviors in a normal world??) She shared some thought-provoking insights on our self-oriented attitudes and made a  case for how a more social-oriented mindset is beneficial not only for people around us, but also for ourselves.

We reflected on how every-day products end up changing our routines and, on a bigger scope, our lives.  Then it was workshop time! Fellows worked in teams and explored different ways in which design could be used as a key tool for creating change around issues like obesity, aging populations, organ donation and vaccination.  She spent time with each of the groups giving on-point feedback to help them adjust and reframe ideas.

Nynke mentor session UnSchool Berlin Day 5

We wrapped the day with a reflection session and tried to keep a mellow vibe as the fellows were pretty exhausted at this point. Sitting in a large circle, our alumni co-hosts, Adam (NYC Fellowship) and Mariana (Mexico City Fellowship), facilitated a group conversation about activities and learnings from the week. Next, each fellow did an individual reflection and wrote down some of their most valuable learnings. They shared with partners and identified shared lessons. The sheer variation and quantity of sessions throughout the week gave each participant a lot to think about, and the synthesis that began to happen during the reflection revealed many interesting ideas and connections. 

UnSchool Berlin reflection circle


Before everyone left for the day, we dropped one more surprise on them… the 24 Hour Design Challenge! Leyla introduced the challenge (24 hours to use the disruptive design methodology in a real-world setting), gave them a brief overview of the client, SINGA Deutschland (a local organization that supports refugees in Berlin) and put the group into teams. The challenge officially kicks off in the morning with pitches happening 24 hours later, so the fellows left Ahoy with a free evening to explore Berlin together (or go home and sleep).