Nutrire Milano – Social interactions and relations

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Changing behavioral and productive paradigms is labored and risky; it does not happen if the stakeholders do not find convenience, commitment, and trust, which together spur a community to try out new possibilities. “Feeding Milan” is experimenting with a relational principle to lead this transformation: conviviality. Conviviality is not only about eating together, but it is actually about creating pleasurable and collaborative relationships in every activity of life. In Latin cultures, food means conviviality, pleasure, taking care of others, and being loved. Michael Pollan (2008) refers to conviviality as an expedient to moderate consumption on one side and, above all, to benefit from the social approach that food triggers though rituals, traditions, pleasure, and so forth. In this sense, the Slow Food movement is not so much about cooking and eating more slowly as it is about connecting people and regaining meaning for the rituals related to food in everyday life. Food is the most powerful and “natural” tool for conviviality, as by “conviviality” we mean a condition of autonomous, creative, cheerful interaction between people. Referring to Ivan Illich, we can thus consider the capacity to promote autonomy in itself to be a fundamental characteristic of convivial tools (1973). As Tim Brown has suggested, this is a shift from designing for the community, to designing with the community and finally to letting communities design ‘by themselves’ (2009). Conviviality in the Feeding Milan project is about building a network of trust and sympathy among the producers themselves and with the consumers. It encourages the “last mile” of an interaction to be a “human mile” during which relationships occur. This also implies that designers be part of, and create, the human links necessary to operate within such interactions. Conviviality is thus a way to challenge the current industrial retail system by making people experience the pleasure of indulging in relationships around food and using the gentle power of collaboration and feeling good together. The aim here is for conviviality to be one of the main reasons why producers and consumers change behavior: the project, in fact, strived to combine a high value in relationship with accessibility. The project played on the fact that conviviality may convince various actors to reconsider their own choices towards industrial production and sales systems, favouring elements of relational value and trust. This emerges clearly from the description of the various services that constitute the scenario, and which encapsulate the meaning of the planning approach to projects. In Feeding Milano we can see how the concept of conviviality also informs the practice of designing. Emphasis is on the values of being there, spending time within the community, and participating in the first-person in the process of change. Empathy, sympathy and collaboration are therefore the key words in design practice today. They call for skills that result from the combination of service design and social intelligence. Community-centred design requires two kinds of competences: one relating to the capacity to gain knowledge about the community and the habitat where it lives; the other relating to the capacity to creatively collaborate with non-designers. The former results in field immersion, so as to pursue a direct experience of the contexts and develop empathy with the community. The latter requires applying designer creativity in a slightly different way. Feeding Milan offered the chance to apply both of them. (Polimi Desis Lab)

Coltivando – Social interactions and relations

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Coltivando community puts together singles, families with kids, retired with students and staff from Politecnico. They belong to an open community: everyone can join the community just helping the works in the garden and share the convivial lunch together. Gardening is the driver that brings people to the place: taking care of a place, force people to come back regularly and to meet the neighbourhood, strengthening up the community sense. Starting from the idea of conviviality, the main focus in the creation of the community of Coltivando was to initiate a process of reunification between two groups of users in the Bovisa District that for years had not had any kind of interaction, the inhabitants of the district on one side and the students, staff and faculty of the Politecnico di Milano on the other. Now, the university community not only inhabits its workspace as commuters, during working hours, but also have become part of a larger group through interacting with local residents. On the other hand, people living in this area have an insight into university life, its people and places, and are involved in activities that could improve their quality of life. The use of a convivial garden as a tool for reunification has great potential in the formation of a community: the act of building and then sowing, cultivating and taking care of the plants, as well as harvesting the food produced – all collectively contribute to strengthen ties within the community that is being created while at the same time, the opportunity for individuals to become self-sufficient in the production of fruit and vegetables is created. One year after the opening, the community of Coltivando totals twenty permanent members with an ever-increasing number of visitors who occasionally participate in maintenance activities and take advantage of the opportunity to spend some time in, and enjoy, a public green area. Further some of the Coltivando users have started to collaborate with two kindergartens in the neighbourhood: the Politecnico di Milano one, which is based in the same campus, and the Comunale di via Guerzoni. They let the two schools interact with Coltivando by letting them use some garden boxes for small activities with the young kids. In the Comunale di via Guerzoni, Coltivando users also work as volunteers with the babies and the nurse to set up a small garden corner within the open air spaces of Coltivando. (Polimi Desis Lab)

Izindaba Zokudla – Social interactions and relations

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As the project’s name suggests, Izindaba Zokudla is a conversation about how to change the current food system in Soweto, this has required active and regular interaction with farmers and other stakeholders. (Design Society Development DESIS Lab)