Biologist Jakob von Uexküll introduced the concept of the "umwelt" in 1909 as a way to capture his observation of the animal kingdom: different species living within the same ecosystem pick up on different environmental signals. The "Umwelt" is the small subset of the world that an animal can detect. Umwelt denotes a self-centered life, a world unto itself requiring little or no knowledge of other parallel lives.
In our splintered, tribalized country, we humans are creating our umwelts. Inside the Impact Hub are brilliant nonprofit and business leaders working on promoting and implementing new ideas for the betterment of society. On the street are homeless people who sleep on the sidewalks, put up tents, and assemble to receive services from agencies located nearby. The professionals and the homeless inhabit the same block of the city, separated only by a wall and windows, but live in two different worlds. The professionals come to work every day and rarely, if ever, interact with the homeless population outside their office walls. That’s why we’re excited to take part in this year’s Seattle Design Festival with our workshop “Beyond the Umwelt: Bringing Together Communities Through Participatory Design.”
Our workshop will focus on the streetscape immediately around Impact Hub’s building and how the streets can build trust and interaction between neighborhood workers and the adjacent homeless community. Attendees should come prepared to put on their design-thinking caps and work in teams. The goal of this workshop will be to explore ideas that could benefit both groups and upgrade the Hub block to serve the city better.
I will lead the workshop, utilizing methods the Pomegranate Center developed over the past 30 years in designing and building over 60 community-built projects. We use collaborative principles and everyone, whether designer or just a passionate citizen, will participate. We will walk the site, perhaps meet some of the homeless people, and then work both in large and small groups to develop ideas for improvements. We invite you to bring your curiosity and creativity and join us on Wednesday September 19th from 6:00PM to 8:00PM at Impact Hub Seattle. You can reserve a place by following this link. The results will be passed on to Impact Hub leadership to activate its network to connect more meaningfully those working on the inside of the picture glass windows with those who stand in crisis on the outside.