In preparation for leaving for the two week Industry Project in Milano, I left some experience prototypes with various stakeholders.
Last week I spent a lot of time in the field refining my concept together with various stakeholders. I went back to Maed where I did cocreation sessions with three different individuals. I met again with Isayas the owner of the business. He's been so helpful in connecting me with various people in the Griffenfeldsgade community. I also met with Henok, a frequent patron of Maed originally from Ethiopia, and Zahraa who just relocated to Copenhagen from Somalia. The reception to the idea is warm. The idea of sending and receiving packages is quite well received so far.
I also met with Dilek, a woman originally from Turkey who's now running a Peruvian food truck here in Copenhagen. She spoke a lot about the complexities of running a food-related business and also the unique challenges related to Copenhagen. Where people are open-minded about trying new food, but don't necessarily spontaneously stop at food trucks.
I also met with Ruping, the owner of a Chinese supermarket here in Copenhagen. He explained that most of their customers are Chinese or Chinese born in Denmark. They use WeChat to sell online at the moment, but they aren't currently reaching many ethnic Danes, despite their interest in Chinese food.
I also went to an event in the meatpacking district called, "Foodpreneurship" for food startups. We heard four startup pitches and then there was a one hour workshop. It was quite an interesting event, and I managed to find some participants for user testing!
I also went to Trampolinhuset, an independent center that provides refugees and asylum seekers with a place of support, community and purpose. I met with Tone, who took me through the refugee experience arriving in Denmark. It was a moving and troubling session, but a bit out of scope for my project. Nonetheless, it was completely worthwhile.
Based on my field research, I decided to reposition my concept not only for immigrants, but for all Copenhagen residents. I remember an insight from Haragua - that coming to Copenhagen exposed her to many new cuisines, and that she would love to learn how to cook Chinese food. So the new concept is a hyperlocal (non-perishable) ingredient delivery service, where each month, a member will receive a recipe from a particular ethnic group living in Copenhagen. The flavor kit will include the relevant dry ingredients and purchase the fresh ingredients from their local Netto, Fakta etc. The kits will serve the immigrant business owners by providing them with an online platform to reach new potential customers. After redefining my concept, I worked on some early branding and visual communication and tested it in the public library with Copenhagen residents. So far the reception has been positive, and I'm still gaining insights about tweaks to the idea here and there.
This week I started with 3-4 key directions derived from my insights and research.
The first one was a peer-to-peer shipping service, where a immigrants living in Copenhagen could use a database of travel itineraries to make product requests to travelers. The second was a rotating popup aisle in the supermarket, curated by local “ethnic restaurants” and immigrant groups, based on exploring and documenting reactions. The third direction was care packages curated by immigrants and restaurant owners living in Copenhagen that are then sent out to immigrants living in areas of Denmark with limited access to food ingredients from their ethnic group.
I timeboxed 30 minutes to spend flushing each direction out, mapping and creating scenarios for each one. This exercise was really to test my own interest in exploring each direction.
This week we had our second session with external reviewers. I met with Chris from Normally and Tobias from IDEO. In preparation for the meeting, I evaluated each direction, and narrowed it down to one focused on domestic care packages in Copenhagen. I worked on visualizing and mapping out the idea, thinking about the value propositions, market positioning and initial scenarios.
Both meetings went well. Chris pushed me to switch a bit from a demand-driven business model to think of ways I can use supply to trigger demand. Funnily enough, he brought back in two concepts of peer-to-peer shipping and luggages and interventions in the supermarkets, and we worked together to tie them into my current concept. He encouraged me to explore POS opportunities inside shops, and the idea of mapping out Copenhagen and even Denmark in regards to ethnic groups and restaurants to understand where demand is in terms of geography and how to further trigger it.
Tobias is a Dane living in San Francisco and always brings licorice and aquavit with him back from Denmark. He brings it to share it with others that otherwise might never try it. Tobias encouraged me to look into personal-feeling user interfaces and how to visualize trust in terms of UI. He spoke about the power of a crowd-powered element and the feeling of "you want to know you can get the things you crave." He also encouraged me to think about payments as a potential area for differentiation.
I also prepared some initial tools for user testing, which I’ve scheduled for week 43.
At the end of the week I worked on an initial service blueprint, which helped me go a bit deeper into the concept.
Last week ended with lots of ideas and fascinating discussion with individuals from around the world. We had class brainstorming sessions, which took quite a bit of time and even more energy, but it was very valuable to see what my peers were up to and be inspired by them. I started with three opportunity statements and three how might we questions to guide the brainstorming.
Opportunity Statement 1:
Growing up in Ethiopia, Isayas had food prepared for him by his mother or he purchased food inexpensively outside. He never have had the need to learn to cook Ethiopian food at home. But relocating to Copenhagen as a refugee changed all that. For the first time, he learned to cook Ethiopian food.
How might we Question 1:
How might we increase pleasure for non-western immigrants using food preparation as a vehicle?
Opportunity Statement 2:
When cooking non-ethnically Danish food, immigrants often rely on complex supply chains that include supermarkets, ethnic markets, and friends’ luggages. Keeping a reliable stream of ingredients can be difficult, if not impossible.
How might we Question 2:
How might we transform a complex, underground or even illegal supply chain into a lucrative business model for non-western immigrants living in Copenhagen?
Opportunity Statement 3:
Griffenfeldsgade is a street in Norrebro that just a few years ago was inhabited by predominantly East African residents. A couple years ago, some trendy cafes and restaurants opened up, like Ramen to Biiru, Faetter Faetter and Depanneur attracting middle class, white Danes to the neighborhood.
How might we Question 3:
If integration or making friends is a byproduct, but not the primary goal, how might we create opportunities for mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge or resources between non western immigration and white Danes?
I got almost 50 ideas from my peers, and clustered them into 9 key directions: Cultivation & Sharing, Hyperlocalization & Food Democracy, Ingredient or Climate Substitutions, Negotiating Identity, Food Exchange in the Neighborhood, Interventions in the Supermarket, Skill Exchange, Bringing Transparency to Hidden Talents or Resources, Gamification & Fun.
I used these clusters as jumping off points to take what’s interesting for me to explore in the coming weeks.
After the brainstorm, I set up some meetings to get some additional input on my design directions. I met again with Anders, the Research Associate from the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. I also met with Marquise from Openbox. I also met with Menkir, a farmer originally from Ethiopia, after getting his MBA and long career in technology has started his own farm producing organic Ethiopian spices and plants.
After this week, I’ve narrowed down my topic to a couple of specific design directions that I will prototype and explore in the coming week.
This week I continued conducting research in the field and worked on trying to analyze and synthesize some of my initial findings. I spoke again with Devin, where she reminded me that as interesting as entire food systems are, I need to distill my topic down to a specific starting point. Especially if I want to make any sort of impact, if I stay too broad it will dilute my effort in the long run.
I also went to Space10, IKEA’s innovation center where I met with the CIO, Guillaume Charny-Brunet. I was initially interested to meet with him because when I was first in Space10 back in early springtime, they showed us their hydroponic farm in the basement. I was quite curious to see what kind of bottom-of-the-pyramid solutions they were working on. He shared a bit about the strategic direction of Space10, and after introducing my research area around immigrants and marginalized communities, it became clear that we may not have as much overlap as we originally suspected.
I had my weekly meeting with Erlend, where we went through some of my research findings and started to synthesize a few ideas that were really at the core of my interests. These were “cohabitation”, “spark” and “dialogue.” For example, what does it mean to live in close quarters with someone from other racial or ethnic groups? Should we hold hands? Or what kinds of tensions arise in those situations? What is sparked, or created in those urban areas of conviviality? We also acknowledged that my findings are still quite obvious, and how can I explore the question of “what’s next?” Also, I came up with my mantra for the project “Don’t lose your compass.”
I Skyped with Linda Lapina, a PhD fellow researching cultural encounters (among other topics) in Denmark. Linda connected me with Anders Riel Muller a PhD researcher who’s (again among several topics) looking into ethnic minorities in Denmark and how food practices come into being in the encounter with Danish majority food cultures. It was fascinating speaking with both of them, and Anders’ research was spot on with my thesis. He encouraged me to rethink some of my word choices, and challenged me in my thinking of nostalgia, authenticity and discovery. A key insight was the paradox of white chefs being valued by their creativity, whereas ethnic food chefs being measured by their authenticity. What are some restaurants considered authentic and others not, and how do connotations of authenticity evolve over time? Can we look at bringing creativity and creation into the story of ethnic food in Copenhagen? Who gets recognized as culinary experts and why?
I spent an evening in the home of Haragua, an Ethiopian immigrant living with her Ethiopian husband and Danish born children in Copenhagen. I observed as she prepared dinner. These days, she only cooks Ethiopian food once every few months, because it’s so labor intensive, and because of the ingredients she has to substitute, like white flour in her Injera (traditional Ethiopian flatbread), it’s a lot less healthy, and she worries about the impact on her health.
I spoke with Clara Gamalski the Assistant Director of Outreach and Education at Conflict Kitchen, and dug deep into the motivations, mission and vision of Conflict Kitchen, and organization that opens takeaway restaurants serving food from countries that are in direct conflict with the US. She spoke about the mission being not to take a political stand, but to spark conversations about what it’s like to come from one of these countries and live in Pittsburgh.
I also had my first external review session with Pier Dalla Rosa an Interaction designer and technologist and Gitte Jonsdatter the Global Patient Partnering Research Lead at Novo Nordisk Strategic R&D. It was fascinating to have the different perspectives of a more research-oriented person, and a technology-oriented designer. The initial feedback was that it’s quite obvious that my background is in research, and that that is also acting as a barrier for my ability to transition into solution-oriented thinking. I’m very comfortable in the high-level, broad questioning stage, but I need to push myself to start thinking of solutions as a way to identify my hook in how I want to narrow down my research question.
This week I’ve completely re-contextualized my project. I’m a hands on researcher and like to have direct access to the people I’m designing for. I realized that working on the US context from Denmark would create an additional constraint and prevent me from doing as many iterations as I’d like, and so I decided to look to Denmark for analogous examples. I’m was initially interested in exploring food deserts, because I wanted to dive deep into the food solutions created by marginalized, resource-constrained communities. To explore a similar theme in Denmark, I’m expanding my scope to three additional areas: 1) remote Danish towns and immigrants / displaced peoples, specifically what kind of access to these remote immigrant enclaves have to ethnic ingredients? 2) Copenhagen and immigrants, and specifically, How has openness to peripheral participation affected ethnic enclaves (restaurants/markets) during the Nordic food trend of recent years? 3) Copenhagen and heritage food learners, specifically, how are immigrants rediscovering and recreating food from their country in Copenhagen?
This week I went to Østergro, a CSA urban farm in Østerbro, Copenhagen. I met with several volunteers and employees that explained to me that Østergro i s not about feeding a lot of people, but more about education about what’s possible in Denmark. The members are privileged, and the nature of the rooftop farm means it’s quite isolated and separate in a way.
I also spoke with employees at Ma’ed Ethiopian Restaurant, where I learned the owner didn’t start cooking Ethiopian food until moving to Denmark. His restaurant is unique in that it attracts Copenhageners from all backgrounds. (The volunteers at Østerbro knew it!) He finds his customers of African descent come because Ethiopian food is particularly difficult to make for one person, because it’s not easy to source the ingredients and it takes a long time. He makes his own butter, with spices from Ethiopia. They rely on a complex network of food suppliers including restaurant suppliers, African markets, (what they referred to as) “Arab” shops, and friends and family who bring things back from Ethiopia.
I also conducted some remote interviews. I spoke with Devin Peek, designer and anthropologist with an interest in food advocacy currently at IDEO in San Francisco. She introduced me to Culinary Diplomacy, and the way food can be used as a trojan horse to talk about bigger issues. It’s based on the idea that “the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach." Sam Chapple-Sokol, a thought leader on the subject wrote that culinary diplomacy is "the use of food and cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions and cooperation.” Devin also spoke of Conflict Kitchen, a restaurant in Pittsburgh that only serves food from countries that are currently in conflict with the US. They change the menu every quarter and have done cuisine from Cuba, Iran, Palestine and North Korea.
I also spoke with John Poisson, an entrepreneur with a particular skill at sourcing beautiful, unique products around the world. I was struggling with finding a hook in Denmark, and he explained that “being an outsider yourself is part of your hook” - that being from California is a part of my identity. I just counted and realized I’ve moved at least 17 times across three continents and seven cities in the past ten years. In my experience relocating, food has played an incredibly powerful role in it’s ability to serve as an entry point for understanding other cultures. I’ve found great pleasure but also frustration in trying to adapt ingredients and recreate food memories from my past. For this project, I’m interested in exploring the intersection between migration, place, history, food and the interactions created between people that occur as a result.
For me, I’m really curious to keep exploring how food can be a vehicle for nostalgia and interaction. How ethnic ingredient scarcity can provoke culinary exploration. A big learning this week is that our two month time limit is going to be quite a constraint. Additionally, designers often think about what problems they’re solving, but (as encouraged by my mentor Erlend) I’d also like to explore how to elevate pleasure and increase gains - food can play a big role here. I need to be very intentional about what scale I’m addressing, what level of problems I’m attempting to fix, and be clear that a two month time frame isn’t realistic to solve major conflicts, but an opportunity to bring a bit more joy to a select group of individuals.
I want my Final Project to …
For me the final project is form of self expression. Working in teams has been great, but I feel it’s an organic time for me to spend some time with myself, and have a better understanding of what my abilities and interests are. I’m also ready to take accountability for driving a project and also making the strategic decisions with the help of externals.
It’s also a mini entrepreneurial effort. I want to see what it’s like to start a “company” from beginning to launch. I’ve always had an interest in starting my own company, but always had excuses (time, lack of experience, etc) for why I wasn’t doing that. I love that this project is forcing me to explore my own interests, and bring something to market potentially.
Additionally, it’s a gift of time, coming from working before CIID, having two months to explore a personal interest feels like a luxury. Since leaving university seven years ago, most of my efforts have been on behalf of other people’s visions. While it’s inspiring to work with talented people, it’s also a rare opportunity in life to explore your own interests with the amazing resources at CIID.
I’m interested in/inspired by…
I’m interested in exploring food inequality and food deserts in the US. Some facts: 29 million Americans live in urban and rural food deserts, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Americans in low-income rural areas have to travel at least 17km to get to their nearest supermarket. In a dense city like Washington D.C., that means taking two hour-long bus rides in each direction to get to a supermarket, with shopping bags in tow. (fortune.com)
Several years ago, my sister gave my mom the book Farm City by Novella Carpenter. Novella is a really inspiring woman, and I finally read the book this past summer. She’s started an urban farm in a rundown part of Oakland nicknamed Ghost Town. She even had chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys and pigs! My Dad started a vegetable garden above his building in downtown San Francisco, and my mom recently started a farm in Lake Country, two hours from San Francisco. I’ve always loved cooking, and eating. Not necessarily fancy things, but down home, honest food. I love cooking Chinese food especially. I like gardening, getting my hands dirty, and having a connection to what I consume. For the past three years, I’ve had a vermiculture on my balcony, where I fed red wriggler worms my food scraps. Also, my sister had six chickens while attending UC Berkeley and studying agriculture. So, those are some of my interests when it comes to food.
In university, I studied American Studies and Ethnicity with a focus on Ethnicity and Gender. As a child, growing up in a multicultural environment in San Francisco, where my parents had different accents than each other and also from my siblings and me, I’ve always been deeply interested in topics of race and the intersections between communities in urban environments.
This project is relevant because…
I attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. It’s an incredibly conservative, wealthy school in the middle of South Central LA, a black, and now predominantly Latino neighborhood. I spent a lot of my studies analyzing the race riots or uprisings in LA, and things like African American psychology and Ethnic politics. Now, having lived abroad for the past six years, and living in Taipei, Paris, Zurich and now Copenhagen, it’s been insane reading about the US in the news. At the same time, living in more socialist-oriented countries, where people have access to health care, food, rehabilitation, education and transportation (among other things), has really deepened my discomfort with the US.
I don’t want to attempt to fix the entire country, but this is a small exploration that I think can expose some of the deeply imbedded inequalities affecting millions of Americans. It’s crazy to imagine that in one of the wealthiest, most powerful countries in the world, but meanwhile about 85% of Americans do not consume the US Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily intakes of the most important vitamins and minerals necessary for proper physical and mental development. (theguardian.com)
During my Final Project I would like to challenge myself in…
SKILLS I can rely on:
Uncovering Insights & Behaviors
Birds Eye Perspective
Project Management, Prioritization
Skills I want to challenge myself in:
App Design, GUI
My starting point
For me, the starting point is desk research. The problem is quite complex and I need to understand a bit of the factors and trends driving food inequality. I like to have a solid understanding of the problem before I start thinking about solutions. I’m in contact with Roberto Flore from Nordic Food Labs, who has a contact working in food deserts in the US, Guillaume Charny Brunet from Space10, Ikeas innovation lab where they have a hydroponic farm in the basement. I’m interested in speaking to them about how to address issues of scale when dealing with large masses of people. Marquise Stillwater from Openbox, who I’d consider an expert in the complexities of designing solutions in inner city North American conditions, and the sensitive issues of race, ethnicity and ownership. Additionally, Kenneth Aleksander Robertsen from IDEO is connecting me to someone from the food department who’s working on something related to food inequality in the us.
I plan on doing desk research, and then exploratory interviews. Then industry projects, and then more focussed interviews in addition to expert interviews.
My explorations so far
So far, I’ve just been collecting inspirations and done a bit of desk research for my mid way presentation.