Raising A Barn to End Poverty

In the past, throughout rural Alberta and all across North America, communities would come together for barn raising bees every summer. A barn is a necessary structure and the heart of any farm but to build one is more difficult than one family can do alone. As such, communities would come together with varied backgrounds and work together to raise a structure that would become a warehouse, a workshop, a shelter for livestock, and a gathering place for years to come.

Raising a barn is about service to the local community, the blurring of work and play, learning through doing, and creating something bigger than ourselves. BarnRaise Edmonton 2017 is an event based on this framework, where people from all walks of life come together to create new solutions and work to put the EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy into action.  Like barn building, BarnRaise both strengthens the social fabric of the community and has a lasting impact, which supports the work of future generations to create healthy and liveable communities. At BarnRaise, solutions are work-shopped together: funders, NGO’s, designers, students, community organizations, change-makers, public servants, and all types come together and apply design thinking to understand user’s needs, explore solutions, and build prototypes to help end poverty. Here human-centered design processes are playful, culminating in creating prototypes, exploring ideas, and meeting new people. Participants will workshop their ideas alongside designers and subject-matter experts and work toward the shared goal of ending poverty.

As more and more people move to cities, urban dwelling professionals might not stop their work and take to the rural fields to raise a barn. However, there are still problems much bigger than ourselves that need collective creativity and community action to solve and BarnRaise Edmonton 2017 is taking on one such problem: improving early childhood development for a poverty-free future.  Over two and a half days, local people, including designers, community organizers, and event participants will come together to tackle the complex ways poverty affects the lives of people living in Edmonton, focusing on early childhood development and family support services. Anyone interested and open to learning-by-doing can attend BarnRaise Edmonton 2017 and work in interdisciplinary teams, employing human-centered design methods to solve real-world problems.  These real-world problems are brought forward to BarnRaise by community organizations that include Bissell CentreE4C, The Family Centre, Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre, and ABC Head Start, organizations that provide early childhood services and family support services.

Design firms that will stewarding the design-thinking process to tackle these real-world problems include The Action Lab, Berlin, Panorama, Doblin, and Macadamian, firms that specialize in human-centered design, which is a creative approach to problem solving that incorporates the desirability of an offering at every stage of the design process.

BarnRaise Edmonton 2017 is supported by Design Studies at MacEwan University, the Department of Art and Design at University of Alberta, and a number of public and private sector organizations.

Every barn built across the prairies is unique, and every human-centered solution must also take its particular context into consideration, creating something new, or finding solutions that can be adapted and evolved to meet local needs. At BarnRaise Edmonton 2017, participants will work on problems understood through EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy. This ambitious strategy aims to truly end poverty in Edmonton, not just mitigate its effects. The strategy approaches poverty from an economic, human rights, and public opinion approach, acknowledging the ways that intergenerational poverty can have a compounding effect on those who are born into it. The strategy acknowledges that, “One out of every five Edmonton children – nearly 33,000 – are living in poverty. Just over one in three Edmonton children who live in a lone-parent family live in poverty.” These children will struggle to enjoy all their rights and live up to their full potential. By bringing together Edmontonians to work with people from the public and private sector, designers and non-designers, we can unravel some of the complexities that have allowed multigenerational poverty to affect so many people and apply our diverse skills and talents to the shared goal of ending poverty in Edmonton.

BarnRaise began at the Institute of Design in Chicago, where their most recent BarnRaise event focused on improving access to quality healthcare. The conference hosted healthcare practitioners, designers, healthcare administrators, and graduate students, who collaborated and shared ideas. This concept of barn raising is spreading across North America, with BarnRaise events in San Francisco, New York, and Minneapolis. Edmonton is the first Canadian location that is stepping up to the frontier of social innovation to co-create solutions with a diverse group of community members to make their mark on ending poverty in one generation.

When a community finishes building a new barn, it’s a tradition to place a wreath at the high point of the frame. This celebration honours everyone who came together to share their skills and talents. At the end of BarnRaise, everyone involved will participate in a public share-out, showcasing the work they have created and the insights they have gleaned. While the problems that exist in Edmonton are daunting, dedicated and excited change-makers like you can create solutions through collaboration that serve communities, educate one another, create joy, and ultimately build something bigger than ourselves that will last longer than our lifetimes.

Post by Hillary Predko, a Canadian designer and researcher who works with wearable technologies and maker communities. Her work has been exhibited internationally and launched through Kickstarter. She is interested in the interplay between industrial production, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

Image Source: http://oldstonehousemuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Echo-Lake-Barn.jpg