QUT students recently had an overwhelmingly positive response from six community organisations who partnered with first-year Bachelor of Design unit Impact Lab 2: People.
About 600 students across seven discipline areas in the School of Design explored design as a driver for positive social change in a three-day design intensive to develop empathy and self-reflection.
Students embraced real-world, complex challenges supporting often marginalised and stigmatised people and communities.
Students engaged with A Brave Life, Multicap, Kids Helpline, LendLease Future Steps, SevGen and Trade Mutt around themes of teen mental health, social housing, Indigenous training and employment, clothing for all abilities and tradie mental health.
Unit Coordinator and Lecturer in Transdisciplinary Design Melanie Finger said that as well as normalising interaction between designers from other disciplines and with community industry, the students were able to see that ‘design for good’ can be a focus of their degree.
“We hope to remove the ‘us and them’ notion and challenge our students to be caring citizens,” Ms Finger said.
“We don’t just teach about empathy – we ask the students to reflect on their position, confront their own identity and stance.
“We sensitively explore what lenses we come with and what filters we have in place due to our own background. By understanding our position, we are in a better place to listen to our design clients and remove filters we have in place.”
A Brave Life works with teen mums to encourage them to finish their education, pursue their dreams and ‘live life brave’.
Students heard via an online platform from the CEO of A Brave Life Melissa Redsell (once a teen mum) as well as two of her teen mum clients and were given the design challenge:
How do we inspire teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds to Dream Big whilst living a brave life?
By hearing first-hand from a teen mum and using the tools learnt in Impact Lab workshops, students were able to design with empathy.
During the online intensive one student reflected on her own experiences as a teenager, of friends who were close to experiencing the judgement from peers from teenage pregnancy.
“The intensive was truly eye-opening and hearing the stories shared by the teen mothers themselves was incredibly inspiring,” student Kate von Euw said.
“Seeing the client's heartfelt reactions to the designs produced by our groups made the intensive experience (and the last-minute stress) all the more rewarding.
“Design is impact and that's why we love it.”
Many of the design solutions enabled young teen mothers to escape the negative stigma and judgment that deprives them of the future they desire.
In her group, student Sarah Leach, designed a solution of having members of A Brave Life hosting a podcast.
“This content would include topics such as preparing for a pregnancy, care of a newborn, mental health as well as teen mums sharing their own experiences through interviews,” she said.
“I am grateful for this experience as it has helped me develop not only my team-building skills but also allow me to work closely with an industry partner to create a solution for a real-world problem.”
The winning presentation encourages other mothers to stay away from judgement in an ironic way – via a mural in hospital – recognising that we are all equal on the journey rather than a consequence of a mistake.
CEO Melissa Redsell was thrilled by the outcomes of QUT students and is keen to enact a number of the proposals.