Design Storming in Cape Town

The Design Storming concept came into being as a means to create productive spaces for design to happen in a participatory manner, where societal challenges are taken up and worked on by a dynamic mix of design professionals and local community. The main underpinning theme is the co-design process where designers work within the context using knowledge residing in the community from where the problem statement emerged.

The problem statement was identified by a Cape Town NGO, the Social Justice Coalition, who singled out the issue of inadequate refuse collection and removal in the informal settlement of Khayelitsha.

A group of volunteers quickly answered the call and we went into Kayelitsha for the initial two-day storming phase on a rather cold and rainy weekend in July. What we saw during the observation phase was a broken system for refuse collection that was causing pollution and health risks as well as a feeling of helplessness amongst residents – there seemed to be no accountability or means of ensuring that the sub-contractors do their jobs of removing refuse.

The shipping containers currently in use – simply placed on street corners, locked most of the time causing residents to dump waste outside.

Once we’d done the walkabout in the informal settlement we gathered in a communal space nearby to team up in groups to compare notes and start the process of engaging with community members and defining the key points for interventions. It was heartening to see how engaged everyone was in the process of co-designing an alternative future for what is largely a forgotten area on the urban fringe. The members of the community started sharing their stories and lived experience within the storming teams and so the solutions started to evolve.

After two days of defining and ideating in Kayelitsha the groups carried on working for another three weeks to further develop ideas and to prototype and test.

Rough sketches made during the ideation phase – Group members: Jared Vorster, Johan du Toit, Lourina Botha, Nicholas Wiid, Orli Setton, Liani van der Westhuizen, Bruce Snaddon, Erica Elk, and Farzanah Badsha.

The final public presentation of the proposed solutions to Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia De Lille, and Councillor Sims took place in the same room where our final World Design Capital signing ceremony happened, appropriately enough marking the first Cape Town event under the WDC banner.

Group 3 proposed a solution involving collection nodes and retrofitted containers that track the process of refuse removal.

The response from the mayor was that she wished she could have such a dynamic group of people in her office daily. She then went so far as to initiate a fully funded pilot project to test some of the solutions put forward by the Design Storming session.

Gavin Silber, Social Justice Coalition Coordinator comments that the event “illustrates the importance of partnerships across Cape Town’s historical divides in improving the quality of services in neglected communities”

We hope that these kinds of co-design events will increasingly mean that design and its processes are recognized by the ‘powers that be’ to be a powerful change agent and a means of short-circuiting complicated bureaucratic red-tape.

Design Storming was hosted by Creative Cape Town in collaboration with the Cape Town Design Network and the Social Justice Coalition.