What Design Can Do against taboos around violence. That’s the key question in a student project in which the Dutch public prosecutor’s office teams up with What Design Can Do and the Rietveld art and design academy in Amsterdam. 25 international design students will present their visions on this question at WDCD Live Amsterdam 2016 on 30 June & 1 July.

‘There is a lot of silence around violence and abuse in society,’ says Machteld van Barchjansen of the public prosecutor’s office. ‘Not many people know, for instance, that 119.000 children are victim of some kind of violence every year in the Netherlands. Collectively we are rather quiet about this. The same goes for elder abuse. Violence by higher educated people, alcohol induced violence, violence on the football field and violence against men, these are all topics that are kept very much under the carpet.’

Room for alternative thinking

For four years already, the Dutch public prosecutor’s office (OM) runs a program that gives room to different approaches of crime fighting. Quite literally too: on one of Amsterdam’s canals the OM set up a space for meetings, workshops and brainstorms, where prosecutors can meet each other and others to think freely and exchange ideas about alternatives for crime fighting.

One idea that came out of the program consisted of deliberately delivering small Christmas parcels at the wrong addresses in a neighbourhood with lots of burglaries. The intention was to have people meet with their neighbours in order to strengthen social cohesion and surveillance.

Unexpected views

The WDCD/OM student project is only a few weeks underway. Van Barchjansen is hoping for new and unexpected views on the subject. ‘What I hope for is that we will get ideas that help to provoke a broader discussion in society and make people aware about the subject. It should be something that doesn’t scare people off, but instead should invite people to start thinking and talking about these matters.’

The student projects will be presented at WDCD Live Amsterdam 2016 and discussed in one of the breakout sessions.

Top image from government campaign against elder violence

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