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(2018) Service design tools to engage marginalised youth in San Communities of
Southern Africa. In: Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings. ServDes.2018: Service
Design Proof of Concept, 18-20 Jun 2018, Milan, Italy. Linköping University Electronic
Press , pp. 911-923. ISBN 978-91-7685-237-8
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ServDes2018 - Service Design Proof of Concept
Politecnico di Milano
18th-19th-20th, June 2018
Service design tools to engage marginalised
youth in San Communities of Southern
Fabrizio Maria Pierandrei 1, Silvia Remotti 2, Tang Tang 3, Shilumbe Chivuno Kuria 4, Stefano Anfossi 5 !
1 PACO Design Collaborative, Italy, firstname.lastname@example.org
2 PACO Design Collaborative, Italy, email@example.com
3 School of Design University of Leeds, UK, T.X.Tang@leeds.ac.uk
4 NUST Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia, firstname.lastname@example.org
5 PACO Design Collaborative, Italy, email@example.com
This paper reports the findings as part of a EU funded project which focuses on the
participatory development with the Youth in marginalised communities of Southern Africa.
It discusses the advantages of the adoption of Service Design methods in providing self-
awareness, engagement and active collaboration among participants. Based on the literature
review of Social Innovation, Participatory Design and Service Design, a framework is
proposed and suggests a different overview of the role of individuals in a contemporary
community, with the aim of identifying features that enable and empower the youths as
change agents in their communities. A tool book is created as a result of a selection of the
most effective tools and techniques developed and used in a series of workshops carried out
with local Youth. Through a case study, we illustrate the use of process and tools that
enables and creates an ethical, equal and open platform where the basic skills can be
transferred, and issues or challenges identified individually and collectively can be
transformed into solution-oriented opportunities.
KEYWORDS: participatory design, service design, youth empowerment, design process,
Youth are experiencing the difficulty of understanding their role in society and having their
voice heard in many of the contexts in which they find themselves. This is especially the
case for the youth from marginalised communities, where the entire group is denied
involvement in mainstream economic and social activities, and is even more exposed to the
risks and challenges of a world that is undergoing a metamorphosis (Beck, 2016).
On one hand, young people who are members of disadvantaged and marginalised groups
have comparatively little control over their lives and lack access to social services to meet
their basic needs, e.g. health and education, the labour market and the opportunity for social
participation and its effects on the social fabric (e.g. juvenile delinquency) (Duchak, 2014).
They can be the target of the negative beliefs or judgements from the public, and are often
unequipped to participate fully and feel like they are making social contributions (Kagan et
al., 2002; Evans, 2007). Consistent invalidation of their intelligence leads to low self
confidence and self-esteem (Stoneman 2002).
On the other hand, research suggests the positive attributes and resilience of people at the
social margins can be highly helpful in supporting collective social action. For example,
Kagan et al. (2002) discuss that oppressed peopleÕs resistance and resilience in the face of
oppression has a potential for an enhanced, reclaimed and re-invented identity. Joly, et al.,
(2014) identify that traditional ties of marginalised groups, their strong family values and
emotional attachment among each other in the neighbourhood and village can be the
sources of strength, knowledge and a driving force for social cohesion.
Service design is essentially a sense-making process that supports strategic conversations,
idea generation, prototyping and new business model development for collaborative
solutions, and often rely on the new media to allow people to connect, contribute,
collaborate and share (Meroni and Sangiorgi, 2011). Public services design in Western
economies have been reformed by acknowledging that people who use such services have
unmet needs and latent resources. It is a common practice to enable the dialogue among the
community members, ignite the connection with stakeholders and promote civic engagement
toward a sustainable community development in Europe (Mulgan, 2007). Due to the diverse
characters and needs of communities, many studies criticise top-down approaches and the
passive role of the citizen in public innovations for being inefficient and ineffective, and
emphasise the importance of a collaborative way of creating solutions Òfrom people to
peopleÓ (Meroni, 2007; JŽgou and Manzini, 2008; Clarence and Gabriel, 2014). Participatory
processes are at the base of a new relationship between the citizen and the governmental and
administrative institutions. Service design is seen as a discipline that would enable rejuvenate
the ways in which people participate (JŠppinen et al. 2015) to co-create a specific value
through optimising service offers and channels (Holmlid, 2012). Service providers are
putting the competence, ability and knowledge of service users and the wider community as
a primary power for the service development. This suggests there is a strategic role for
designers to influence the participatory process for Òcitizen engagementÓ or Òservice user
involvementÓ. It is important to recognise this more broadening role of design, to catalyse a
transformative process in unlocking situated knowledge, developing people's skills and
capacities and moving them to make their own futures (Akama, 2014).
This paper presents the outcomes of the PARTY project, where a framework is proposed to
apply innovative service design methodologies (Miettinen and Koivisto, 2009) that provides
the opportunities of experiential learning and problem solving skill development for the San
youth. This is an attempt to get to the heart of young peopleÕs individual experience of
community and their connection to community in order to better use social and human
capital within the San community and empower the youth to solve daily life problems faced
by their community. Through preliminary research, we create ÒenvironmentsÓ for and with
young people that promote the development of their skills and capacities and reveal their
local, situated knowledge and prepare them to become change-agents in the continuous
process of making and designing their own futures.
Youth in marginalised communities
ÒWe live in a world that is not just changing, it is metamorphosingÓ (Beck, 2017), and this is
particularly evident in the case of the indigenous youth, stuck within the traditional values
and cultural norms of their parents and that of western society. With the influence of social
media (mainly through mobile phones), indigenous youth became a generation with the
burden of a legendary, even though anachronistic, ancestral past and the dream of a future as
the next pop star or international football player, and a generation facing limited access to
resources in their everyday life and challenged by the same global problems of all other youth
in the world. If these conditions are often the cause of marginalisation, they also are the
reasons why many young members of indigenous communities feel a commitment to Òdoing
somethingÓ for their communities and themselves. They feel the urge to Òdetermine their
own identity and their own life projectÓ (Manzini, 2015).
These very conditions are that the social innovation literacy considers possible to set the
basis of creative collaborative organisations, where design experts can enable collaborative
ecosystems and nurture the design capabilities of each individual. As Òsocial actorsÓ, these
experts have a role to play in creating strategies, processes and initiatives that would engage
the youth in the community development.
Youth engagement should take into consideration how to attract young people and
understand how personal capabilities, values and visions could trigger a common action, as
well as a sense of belonging to a local group and even a larger and ÒfuzzierÓ social unit.
According to Putnam (2000), the engagement should leverage on a personal involvement, on
elements of a bonding social capital, related to the community of homogenous people, and
on features of a bridging social capital, related to community of heterogeneous groups.
The research method
The challenges faced by the marginalised youth in developing countries, such as
unemployment, are not simple or easy to be solved. They are influenced by a number of
factors, such as levels of education, gender, self-esteem, geographic location, physical ability
and physical location. Employment and educational opportunities are two factors which
impact on the future success of young individuals.
The PARTY project, a EU funded initiative involving six academic and non-academic
institutions (University of Lapland, University of Leeds, Paco Design Collaborative, Namibia
University of Science and Technology, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and South
African San Institute), is trying to endorse human development and assist in reducing youth
unemployment by increasing the involvement and inclusion of young people in service
development in South Africa and Namibia by using participatory and exploratory service
design tools. The research focuses on San youth and young adults, especially living in poor
or otherwise marginal conditions who either are or face the risk of becoming marginalised.
During the first two years of project, a series of workshops have been run both in Namibia
and South Africa with local NGOs and organisations who are already working with the San
youth. More in specific we have been working with: SASI in South Africa and //Ana-Djeh
San Trust in Namibia. A practical handbook has been assembled by selecting the most
effective tools from testing during the workshops with the youth and the local stakeholders.
The model: Òme, me+, me++Ó
Defining the boundaries of a community has always been difficult. The global digitalisation
has made these boundaries even fuzzier. We simultaneously live in a hyper-individualistic
Òglobal villageÓ and are still part of specific communities, more than one at the same time.
We defined these three levels as ME, ME+ and ME++. The boundaries of these three levels
vary from context to context, from action to action. We considered an approach based on
these three levels in any action engaging the San youth.
ME: It is the level of the individuals focusing on their personal beliefs, skills and behaviours.
Especially in a hyper individualistic society every participatory action has to start considering
the drive to satisfy the inner needs of safety, belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization of
ME+: It is the level of the immediate interactions of the individuals, mainly related to their
family or the close local community they belong to. It is the level in which the interaction
occurs with people of the same kind, the one in which we feel to be part of a group. The
sense of belonging to the local community is often based on the bonds created by the shared
identity, the habits and traditions of the groups.
ME++: It is the level we can access by using social media that makes us feeling to be part of
a larger group. At this level the individuals open themselves to the others and to the diversity
and common patterns between different groups. The interaction occurs within similar
groups in different contexts (the Youth of the World) or between different people bridging
Developing a participatory process according to the ME, ME+ and ME++ framework
makes possible to start from collecting personal stories and experiences and then mapping
them into common aspirations and expectations, supporting the understanding of the role of
traditional communities in a global context.
Figure 1: Òme, me+, me++Ó model
The PARTY model aims to provide service design tools to the youth who are willing to
activate themselves as agents of change within their community. The model is based on the
principles of Design Thinking, structured in phases and steps. It is intended to start a
dialogue at different personal and social levels, increasing the awareness of the participants
about the possibility to create ideas, small actions and co-designed services that support the
livelihood of the communities and sustainable local businesses. The model can be used in a
specific project and a long-term commitment among communities and stakeholders through
education, capacity building, curricula design and training for the service design capacity
The youth can participate in the project with different levels of engagement, experiencing
through concrete experience (feeling), reflective observation (watching), abstract
conceptualization (thinking) and active experimentation (doing), which are characteristic of
an iterative experiential learning, as defined by Kolb (1984). In PARTY project the learning
experience it is framed around the Me, Me+ and Me++ levels of the individual relationship
with the community and are represented by the state of awareness (empathy) of the
challenges of the youth, by a moment of co-creation (conceptualization) and by a call to
action (finding resources, doing).
The process is structured in order to involve young individuals on a personal level at first
and as part of a local and global community in a second time. This structure reflects the
passages among the ME, ME+ and ME++ model and aims to leverage on individual self-
awareness to enhance participation, the capability of implementing ideas into projects and to
deliver them in the community.
Figure 2: The process
Self-awareness, Participation, Evolution and Action are the four consecutive steps of the
The actions related to understand the sense of self-awareness of young individuals are
developed at the ME level and allows to explore the personal sense of identity and belonging
to the community. Helping the participants to collect and tell personal stories has being
defined as the most suitable action to explore people sense of identity.
This approach has been proven useful in several directions:
● it supported the individual empathic connection with the youth
● it helped detecting those individuals who are more reactive and motivated in the
● it revealed those individuals in the community with stronger leadership skills
Following Self-awareness it is the call to participate, leveraging on the sense of belonging to
the community of the Youth.
This second phase helps in mapping the community and giving roles to the participants,
guiding the generation of new common ideas. The activities related to this phase are
developed at the ME+ level, the level of the local community; the specific action related to
this step is the building of a common vision.
Two other phases follow, called Evolution and Action, which are related to the
implementation of the idea into a service, its production and delivery. These phases refer to
the ME++ level and aim to transfer design and managerial skills to the Youth.
As any conceptual model, it has been conceived to identify the logic of the process, which is
not necessarily linear: many activities and tools described in one phase can be used iteratively
in different moments and applied to reach different goals, to involve individuals, groups and
communities. All phases of the process aim to help the youth to understand the position it
covers in the community, amplify the sense of belonging and give the opportunity to the
young people to have a productive role.
To resume the four actions related to the four phases are:
1. Collect stories
2. Building a common vision
3. Look for resources
4. LetÕs make it
1 - Collect stories
Storytelling is a powerful way to exchange and address the barriers to knowledge transfer
within community members (Prasetyo, 2017): this is one of the reason why an initial
approach based on collecting stories has been considered.
The engaging phase of the process starts with activities in which the Youth is asked to create,
collect and tell stories from their individual perspective. The actions aim to increase the self-
awareness of the participants. Workshops and methods are aligned to facilitate an
introspective activity with the Youth, understanding their feeling, their actual status in the
community and their personal expectations for the future.
This phase is divided into two sub-phases:
● Identity: participants identify their challenges and wishes, reflecting upon their
position in the community
● Understanding: participants understand more in-depth the identified challenges and
wishes, share knowledge about each other, raise up the real motivations behind the
2 - Building a common vision
In this phase the activities with the Youth are scaled from the individual perspective to the
community one of the ME+. The actions aim to start group participation in the process,
working on a sense of community. The workshops included in this phase are the most
generative. Some of the activities could be also played at a ME++ level.
This phase is divided into two sub-phases:
● Community mapping: participants move from the individual wishes/challenges to
the group level, sharing and clustering the personal challenges with the ones faced
by the community.
● Idea generation: challenges and wishes are converted into insights which are used to
generate innovative ideas/solutions.
3 - Look for resources
This phase includes a series of initiatives aiming to find resources to support the
implementation of the ideas generated in the previous step. Some of these resources are
skills that the San Youth need to develop to implement the projects: in these cases some
training courses are provided to the Youth. Almost all activities include the participation of
relevant stakeholders (ME++ level), as possible supporter of the implementation.
This phase is divided in two sub phases:
● Planning: participants develop more in-depth the design concept in order to define
what/who they need to do/know to make it real.
● Training: participants learn basic design and managerial skills to implement, produce
and deliver their concepts.
4 - LetÕs make it
The final and operative phase see the San Youth working to bring their concepts into reality,
from the pilot project to the implementation of the final proposal.
This phase is divided in two sub-phases:
● Execution: participants develop the idea into a pilot project in order to test it in a
● Launch: the idea is launched in the community.
The tool book
A tool book has been designed as a practical manual by the local actors for organising and
running workshops with marginalised communities and more in specific with the San
community. The scope of the manual is to support local communities in a series of
participatory actions, including meetings, brainstorming, co-creative moments, jams,
prototyping sessions and presentations. The handbook introduces tools with instructions
that support the youth who have participated in the workshops to be facilitators in small co-
design sessions within their community. The youth to act as facilitators are often those that
are active in the workshops and have a reputation of being impartial, open-minded and
Òactive listenersÓ. They are able to inform the discussion from what has been perceived by
the audience and quickly learn the necessary basic skills of being facilitators.
The book provides insights on how to set the right mood for the meeting, involve the
community members in a workshop, promote interaction and co-creation between
participants. The book is structured in two parts: the first collects a series of
behaviours/rules which are important to consider before starting to work within a
marginalised community; the second introduces all the tools divided into the four phases
● Phase 1 ÒCollect storiesÓ.
Sub phase ÒIdentifyÓ. Tools collected: paper collage, digital storytelling, face the
future, the big 4, family tree.
Sub phase ÒUnderstandingÓ. Tools collected: peer interview, back to the roots,
future CV, in & out.
● Phase 2 ÒBuilding a common visionÓ.
Sub phase ÒCommunity mappingÓ. Tools collected: future us, social sculpture,
drama acting dancing, community on a map, development spectrum.
Sub phase ÒIdea generationÓ. Tools collected: 4 quadrants, insights generation,
structured brainstorming, musical chairs.
● Phase 3 ÒLook for resourcesÓ.
Sub phase ÒPlanningÓ. Tools collected: BMC simplified, resources blueprint, single
organization stakeholder map, mapping.
Sub phase ÒTrainingÓ. Tools collected: create a poster, storyboard, presentation tool,
team building, proto-acting.
● Phase 4 ÒLetÕs make itÓ.
Sub phase ÒExecutionÓ. Tools collected: execution line.
Sub phase ÒLaunchÓ. Tools collected: pitch.
A case study - The San youth living in Windhoek
Participants in the Windhoek workshops are between the ages of 18 and 34. The participants
are predominantly from the !Xun and the Khwe San tribal group and reside in Windhoek
most of the year mainly for educational reasons. Some of the educational activities the youth
are engaged in include attending school to improve their grades, vocational studied for skill
training and furthering their education in colleges or universities. The youth participants
were recruited to participate in the workshop through NUSTÕs collaboration with //Ana-
Djeh San Trust. //Ana-Djeh San Trust was started by young San students in Windhoek in
2014 and was formalised as a legal entity registered at the Masters of Court as a trust in
November 2015. //Ana-Djeh is a word from Xung (a San dialect) that means ÔNew LightÕ.
//Ana-Djeh is contributing to the development of the San communities by educating their
societies on the importance of education and remaining in school. The wider goal by the
Trust includes a right to education, no discrimination in schools or workplaces, provide
assistance in education, minimise dropout rates, and improve school performance for all San
With the youth in Windhoek, we had a series of workshops during the last two years of
research. Thanks to the strong relationship built with them over the years, we managed to
work on all the phases of the processes with the same group of youth.
All the workshops were held in English since the San youth came from different tribal
groups that speaks different languages.
We started with a series of workshops related to the first phase of the process Òcollect
storiesÓ where we explored:
● young peopleÕs dreams, aspirations, fears, statements, and commitments;
● places and people they usually meet with in their daily life;
● behaviours and feelings when in different contexts (e.g. at their school, village, or at
other meeting points like bars) and with different people (e.g. teachers, family
members, friends, unknown people).
● awareness of their skills and characteristics
● value system in relation to their own traditions, stories and cultural backgrounds
● capacity to creatively link the understanding of themselves and current
obstacles/daily challenges to their knowledge of their roots and values.
During these workshops we tested new tools designed ad hoc for the project or we adapted
service design tools already tested in other contexts.
ÒMy super power isÉÓ is an example of one of the tools that was developed using
skill/characteristic of each person declared during the energiser activity, which each
participant tried to define using their own superpower. Facilitators have a key role in helping
the participants to understand what a superpower is, how it would work, and how they might
use it. Each participant creates an accessory or piece of costume that demonstrates their
superpower. By creating this accessory, the participant analyses why and how his/her
superpower would be important and useful to himself and his/her community. Facilitators
have the role to help each participant to understand the meaning of superhero accessory.
Before offering ideas about how to create this item, the facilitators support the analytical
process through which the participants become aware of their best skills and the potential to
add value for themselves and their community. It is key that the participants understand the
significance of their accessory.
Figure 3: Youth presenting their superpowers
The second series of workshops were related to the second phase of the process Òbuilding a
common visionÓ in which we focused more on the ME+ dimension. The youth started to
think as a group in order to explore the challenges related to the family, their home villages,
their education, their employment, and more in general, the future of Namibia. From
mapping these collectively, we asked the youth to choose one challenge they wanted to work
on. They decided to focus on how to bring skills and knowledge back into the villages that
are presently isolated from the cities. Participants worked in groups throughout the design
development process and generated three design solutions to overcome the challenge:
● 1 - TIME TO GIVE BACK: Creating a service/system that the students could offer
their community with free knowledge when they return to their villages for a short
period of time. The service/system would help villagers to acquire the knowledge,
skills and attitudes they need to tackle the common problems being faced by
community members living in the city.
● 2 - WATER ISSUES WITHIN THE VILLAGES: Community group lead by the
youth, that aims to raise awareness about water issues within the villages, such as,
ways to purify water, collect, distribute and save water.
● 3 - PROMOTING LITERACY SKILLS: Raising awareness of the importance of
literacy education in villages focused on the elderly and the youth.
One interesting tool used during this phase is ÒIn 5 years timeÓ.
The tool was created to understand youthsÕ perception of five key topics in relation with
themselves: my country (Namibia), my village, my family, my job, and my education. The
topics were presented in the form of a question: ÒHow do you see your job in five years?Ó.
Participants chose a topic and created a discussion group, moderated by one facilitator for
every three people. This tool works best with groups of 4-6 people, so smaller groups may
be clustered together - or unattractive topics discarded. The discussion has a three-step
procedure: 1) participants individually write on sticky notes what they wish to happen in the
following five years, and then attach the post-its on a poster explaining to the others their
perspectives; 2) after a full round is concluded (or a few), each post-it is re-interpreted as a
challenge and a group discussion is held to identify factors constituting barriers to the
realisation of the challenge being analysed; 3) wishes and challenges together are finally
clustered to determine dominant and common factors. At the end of the discussion, each
group presents in front of the others, their thoughts and conclusions.
In the third phase Òlook for resourcesÓ the youth developed the ideas in details defining step
by step how the services/systems work, the stakeholders to involve and the resources
needed for the implementation. One of the tools used in this phase is the Òsimplified service
blueprintÓ. The tool was created to help with the development of the details of the solution
proposed by the youth in the phase 2. To better identify how the service works step by step
they started to write on post-it all the actions related in a chronological order. For each
action they then identified the main stakeholder to be involved and wrote the name on a new
post-it that has been set under the action related. A third line of post-it is then set under the
stakeholder with the resources (financial or physical resources) needed for each action.
Figure 4: Simplified service blueprint
In the fourth phase ÒletÕs make itÓ the youth presented their ideas to a group of selected
stakeholders. A series of workshops have been organised to help the youth to prepare the
materials for the pitch with the stakeholders. In the meanwhile the //Ana-Djeh association
selected the stakeholders to invite and sent the invitations via mail. The pitch was successful
and at the end of the event an informal discussion started where stakeholders gave
suggestions and tips about future development and implementation. A tool used during this
phase was the ÒpresentationÓ tool that is divided into 3 parts:
● The context in which the youth work that has to be represented with drawings and
● The problems the youth are trying to solve, that has to be represented with acting
● The solutions proposed that has to be represented with drawings, words and acting
Figure 5: Pitch event
ÒAll men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all
human activitiesÓ (Papanek, 1985). Applying service design methods to engage youth of
indigenous communities definitely helps in enabling creative and collaborative ecosystems,
supporting the participants in discovering their being ÒdesignersÓ: a process which starts
from the self-awareness of the potential they have in creating a change in their community
and ends with action plans that potentially have impact on their own lives and future.
The suggested framework (ME, ME+, ME++) has been useful to structure the different
phases of the co-design sessions with the Youth, starting from sharing personal stories to
trace unspoken values and expectations, till defining common strategic directions for the
project development. Surely more has to be done to validate the framework from the
theoretical and practical perspectives: it would be important to define the differences
between the bridging relationships that are happening not between different communities
but at a deeper level beneath the community, affecting the traditional hierarchy and the role
of the Youth. What is more, the use of specific techniques with the tools (e.g. the use of
props or leftover materials when prototyping, which seems to affect peopleÕs engagement) in
the toolbox can be further analysed and tested.
The role of design experts in the participatory design process with the Youth of marginalised
community is essential for concretizing and planning the steps to solve the development
issues that community has raised. Community-led design creates ethical, equal and open
platform where the basic skills can be transferred, and issues or challenges can be
transformed into solution-oriented opportunities. These PARTY activities are well perceived
by the Youth, because skills, tools and ÒspaceÓ provided are valuable for both their personal
growth and their professional career.
This project has received funding from the European UnionÕs Horizon 2020 research and
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