The Story that Sparked It


Remember these?

These were our yellow stands from last year's community art project, Retellings. In a way they were the catalyst for The Upcycle Project, so we thought we'd share this anecdote to help explain our motivations behind this new initiative.

Shortly after we launched the community art exhibition, we were informed that one of the installations was dismantled and the display stands sold to a neighbourhood rag‐and‐bone man. In a fortuitous series of events these stands eventually found their way back to us; what we learnt was that it was done by a resident who was facing financial difficulties at the time. While we managed to resolve this incident peacefully, it started us thinking more deeply about how we could make our participatory processes and outcomes more relevant and meaningful for individuals such as this resident we encountered.

Our experiences in Retellings taught us that stories were a powerful catalyst for community participation, and that design was an appropriate medium for conveying these stories into tangible forms that can touch people in bigger, deeper ways. At the same time it left us with more food for thought:

  • How might we design a more robust process that involves individuals that might have been left out previously, or who are usually left out of community engagement efforts due to bread-and-butter issues and other pressing concerns?
  • How might we ensure that the outputs of our creative processes can have greater social impact and smaller ecological footprints, by utilizing existing resources within the community?
  • What happens if we recognize individuals (like the resident in our story) for their strengths and skills, and create opportunities for them to tap on these assets for the greater good? 

Hence The Upcycle Project, which we hope could help to address some - if not all - of these questions. By creating and facilitating a system of exchange between various stakeholders within and beyond the MacPherson community - bringing together designers, local businesses and residents - we hope to demonstrate and celebrate the capacity of everyday people to contribute positively to their neighbourhood with what they have.