We started off the morning with a continuation of systems mapping, led by Leyla. She went over some systems mapping tools and stressed the importance of understanding causality ("That's just the way it is" is bullshit! There is always something leading to something else!). We explored feedback loops, tragedy of the commons, burden shifting and rule breaking, and then we dove into the 9 Rules of Systems Thinking. The session reinforced the idea that small changes can lead to big change if you understand the systems and take advantage of the leverage points (think trim tab!).
Then we were joined by mentor Rym Momtaz, who shared her experience as a producer for ABC and led a fascinating conversation around the connections between things like Brexit, World War II and the current Syrian war. Rym talked about the role that journalists and storytelling play historically and in the contemporary landscape. She talked about how in the past her press jacket would serve as protection in war-torn places, but now it makes for a target.
In sharing her experiences of exploring ways to flip the narrative, Rym asked each of the fellows to take 5 minutes to write a narrative introduction to themselves, as if it were written by a journalist. Fellows then paired up, swapped their stories and interviewed each other. Rym facilitated a wonderful group conversation where people shared their insights about each other and teased out the ways in which we can use narrative to build empathy and shift the status quo.
While doing Rym's narrative experience we started to smell something savory and delicious: a vegan laksa that the UnSchool team cooked up! We loaded our bowls up and enjoyed a very yellow and tasty lunch, fueling up for our next session with our mentor Janet Gunter, an American/British activist, Anthropologist and co-founder of The Restart Project.
Janet shared her personal narrative, everything from playing unsupervised as a child to her time living in East Timor to her current work now. She challenged us to explore our relationships with the natural world and think about our "way in" to sustainability – as she says if we are to really embrace it it's necessary to have a “personal” connection with it.
Janet's connection, and her outrage with planned obsolescence, led her to start the Restart Project– "a people-powered platform for change, helping demand emerge for more sustainable, better electronics". After hearing about what goes on behind the scenes of planned obsolescence, fellows were given various electronic products, tools (screwdrivers, pliers, etc.) and were asked to take apart their products, documenting each step of the way and looking at how each material is made (we had some visual guides to explain various technical components and resources that go into different materials!).
A lot of fellows were surprised by how hard it is to break a product down – screws are hidden, obscure tools were required etc. The activity also demonstrated how incredibly difficult Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can be because it requires a deep understanding of very complex manufacturing processes (though existing online data can make it easier to make estimates and assumptions on it).
After wrapping up the product tear down debrief, Leyla jumped right into a rapid-fire introduction to gamification (really rapid as we had just 10 minutes before we needed to depart on our next adventure!). She shared strategies for creating gamified experiences that engage participants, involving a mix of mechanics, mechanisms, modes and motivators. Fellows were then grouped into teams and each team was given a unique, random, design-a-game challenge:
"Design a ______ for _____ that incorporates _____. The purpose of your game is to teach someone else one of the new learnings you had this week."
Each team drew cards from 3 different buckets to fill in the blanks for their challenge and had less than an hour to design a game and prepare their demo for the group. Because we had to move on to the next destination, teams had the added challenge of designing their games while riding the metro.
After a couple metro delays and twists (fellows didn't seem to notice or mind because they were so engaged with their game design!) we made it to our next destination: BSR Headquarters. Their Head of Innovation talked us through how the company manages Berlin's waste (ALL of it!)– which is really quite fascinating. From designing waste disposal products and processes to be accessible to people who are physically challenged, to working to overcome issues with people separating waste, there is really much more creativity that goes into waste management than one might think. We got to go on a mini-tour of the innovations they're currently working on and learned about challenges, the future of waste management, as well as end-of-life stage in general (it's not every day you see where garbage goes after you bag it and hand it off!)
Back at Ahoy, each team had 2 minutes to demo their games– there were a lot of laughs and claps involved. Teams used creative ways to role play their game experiences, which ranged from TV game shows about storytelling to a systems thinking card game, to an app children could play to understand the materials that go into their products. Interestingly, no two groups chose the same learning to focus on!
The games were the official end point of Day 3, though most fellows went out on group dinners together.