The Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship put art and design students together with students from other disciplines in Grit Project to tackle real societal problems.

I came to Amsterdam six months ago to study Design Cultures. Around the city, I have discovered many things to see and enjoy, but few things to do. Part of the reason is the language barrier, since I do not speak Dutch — not yet anyway.

Another part is the lack of a platform for people like me to engage with the local community. My classmates and I usually meet at school for lectures, but rarely elsewhere. Sometimes we hang out at cafés and bars. Communication with students from other disciplines and other schools occurs even less often.

By chance or some mysterious force, I found the missing puzzle piece in late February: the Grit Project, where students from various disciplines in Amsterdam worked collaboratively in teams to solve community problems.

Project manager Femmy van den Elsaker explains: ‘The Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship initiated Grit Project from a thought: Let’s bring creative students from Amsterdam School of the Arts and Gerrit Rietveld Academy together with students from other disciplines like business administration, medicine, marketing, and see what happens when they work in a multi-disciplinary team and talk about designs, concepts and entrepreneurship.’

Assignments

Among the assignments we could work on were: bring vibrancy to Amsterdam Science Park, expand the mobile application iKringloop, and design playful products for the elderly. For the first two days, the teams attended workshops and received support from coaches. On the third day, each team pitched its ideas in front of a jury and other participants.

Solving any of the proposed problems in just three days surely sounded impossible at first, but we managed. We were highly motivated due to the perceptible goal of the project. Working on a real societal problem, not some sort of hypothetical case, with so much support from the multi-disciplinary teammates and organizers, created the kind of framework I think any designers or design researchers would love to have.

My team consisted of five members with five different nationalities studying five different disciplines (Design Cultures, Jazz, Pedagogical Science, Design Lab, Interaction Design & Unstable Media). It was an example of diversity at its very best. We took on the assignment of designing playful products for the elderly.

The result was a line of products called ‘Ballie’ made especially for elderly people suffering from dementia. Each product takes the shape of a ball with different properties, in which you can see the expertise of each of our team members. We were very happy with the results. And what is more, our team was selected as winner of Grit Project 2014.

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