service Design / Culture in Context

A service that connects immigrant small business owners to the larger Copenhagen community, using public library resources as a means to drive inclusion.

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Process

Culture in Context is the result of a partnership between the Copenhagen public library and the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction design during a 3 week service design module.

For our 3 week exploration, we focused on outreach to immigrants, a particularly underrepresented part of the Library user base.

We spent the majority of our time in the field, hearing the stories of these individuals.

We found that tight knit immigrant communities have formed in the north western part of Copenhagen, where ties of kinship, ethnicity or religion create trust and collaboration. There, restaurants, corner stores and barber shops become unofficial hubs for civil services, language exchange and integration.

We created Culture in Context.

The first step is a meeting with a library employee called a cultural ambassador, that serves as an interface between the library and these tight knit communities. One key insight is that these immigrant communities often rely on word of mouth, and for our service to be successful, we needed a human touch to foster the relationship between these business owners and the public library.

We worked together with library employees to define the role and responsibilities of the cultural ambassador.

During our field research, we found that there was an unusually low sense of trust of public officials in these immigrant communities, compared to other parts of Copenhagen. For this reason, we came up with the welcome kit - a communication tool that facilitates dialogue between the cultural ambassador and the small business owner.

Together with the cultural ambassador, the shop owner selects materials for his establishment specific to his needs and the community. This could range from rare traditional music, travel information or even legal resources.

The cultural ambassador meets with the business owner four times a year to co-select materials and tools to meet the business owner’s evolving needs.

During our field research, we collected rich stories and experiences from immigrants in Copenhagen. We began sharing these stories in the wider community and found audio to be a subtle, yet powerful storytelling tool - building empathy between otherwise separate communities.  

The experience is extended beyond the four walls of the establishment with the digital audio archive, where all the collected stories of these immigrant groups are available.

This way, the library can scale the impact of Culture in Context by providing all Copenhageners a chance to hear in depth perspectives from these immigrants.

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Result

The impact for the shop owner is a better experience for their customers, deeper inclusion in Copenhagen, and empowerment within their local Community.

This exchange of expertise between these community members and the library results in long term partnerships, plugging the public library into previously unreachable communities, and thereby better informing future library offerings.

Our concept is currently being reviewed by the Copenhagen Public Library to evaluate its incorporation into their strategy in the hopes of creating more inclusive library services in the near future.