How can design facilitate collaboration between city stakeholders to invent more inclusive, sustainable and democratic ways of living?

The Maison POC Collaborative City is a collection of fun, immersive experiences that project visitors into the lifestyles of tomorrow. Through ‘design shows’, it explores a hundred projects, local and worldwide, to identify emerging visions of sharing, cooperation and mutual assistance. Modern ways of living are more person-centred, solutions increasingly personalised, algorithms more targeted, mentalities more individualistic and today socialising is done at a distance…

While the world is still reeling from the shock of the pandemic and drawing what lessons it can learn to return to ‘normal’, the purpose of design in the Collaborative City is to restore collective responsibility, protect common goods, rebuild the sense of community and promote mutual aid. The space is as much a showcase as a lively forum for ideas and debate. The visitor is called on to lead an investigation in search of evidence of the collaborative future.

Interacting with a hundred other POCs in the region, the Collaborative City POC will welcome DESIS labs from design schools and universities from around the world and showcase practical learning of design and social design practices from European cities in the URBACT networks. It will explore how the public health crisis is reshaping our world and how design is taking an active part.

This installation started out online in May 2020 and will be extended with workshops, meetings, sessions and events from September 2020.

© Maison POC Collaborative City

Interview with the curator

The Metropole of Lille is the 2020 World Capital of Design, what does that mean to you?

“Lille’s nomination was a key motivational element for the entire curating team: unlike cities who are already known for their achievements in the field of design, Lille Metropolitan Area aims to use design as a springboard to help its region. And this position seems particularly interesting to us because it is looking towards the future. In December 2020, it will not be the end of Lille Metropole, Capital of Design, but the beginning of a design movement at working towards social innovation, sustainable development and democracy.”

You’ve met over a hundred POC holders, designers… What have you gained from this experience?

“First of all, it is a beautiful human adventure. When the World Design Capital Committee calls on the private and public sectors of the region and the civil society to launch more than 600 project proposals in less than a year, it created a great movement that must be analyzed and explored in detail to understand what are the emerging trends now. We have identified about fifteen of them centered around living and regenerating the commons, shared spaces, new uses, and mutual support… But to find out more, you will have to visit the Maison POC Collaborative City, which gives visitors the opportunity to conduct a survey just as our team did and to get a sense of these emerging trends…”

What have you learned from design?

“It can be said that participatory design methodologies that characterize design approaches have become commonplace in private sector projects as well as for local authorities and civil society projects. “Nothing about me without me,” as the saying goes: nothing about me should be done without me first getting involved! And this ongoing evolution – which can be seen in the hundred or so sample projects on the platform of Maison POC Collaborative City – is particularly good news and a pledge of future commitment in a country like France which has too often been criticized for its top-down approaches, hierarchical and overarching processes that cut off disconnected stakeholders from the end users!”

What impact has the spread of the pandemic had?

“The current health crisis has jolted Maison POC Collaborative City project with a deep shock but has also created a very motivating paradox for designers: the socializing mechanisms have come to a halt, any display of solidarity must not overstep the legal distance of 1.5 meters, mutual support reflexes are kept at a distance, and natural empathy is restrained… The pandemic calls on us to design new proxemics for collaborative cities. The featured POCs explore fundamental questions for design such as the forced digitalization of education, the sustainability of our regions in terms of food security, new forms of solidarity in neighborhoods, and the economy of care and trust…”

Ville Collaborative, non-expo in a shifting room. ©Strategic Design Scenarios

You’ve specified that Maison POC Collaborative City is a “non-exhibition.” What do you mean by that?

“Traditional display forms – such as positioning artefacts on pedestals or photos of objects in magazine pages – struggle to capture emerging design forms for social innovation, public action, and sustainable lifestyles: when your POC relies on coordinating solar energy consumption between neighbors or reducing food waste in canteens, there may not necessarily be something to display or a nice photo to take! This is why we have chosen to show design in the context of performative art, such as theatre, narration, live or video performances, which are much more likely to help people grasp complex problems, to tell the story of processes, and to reveal what is immaterial, etc.”



The POCs are experimental projects that anticipate possible factors that could shape the future

Making a POC a “proof of concept” means giving shape to an idea in a scenario, a model or a prototype, to concretize it sufficiently so that it can be experimented with and realistically confronted with the uses and users while still leaving open enough the way in which it will take shape in the future. This materialization is a “concrete hypothesis” as an “anticipation of the potential future.” Once it is made as a material part of a POC, it becomes a “proof of the future” in progress…


About a hundred POCs from here and elsewhere explore new forms of collaboration in the urban landscape

Lille Metropole 2020, World Capital of Design launched POCs which – as a group – are experimenting with “visions in the making.” Together they form what project proposal calls weak signals of an emerging future. The POCs from here, from the Lille Metropolitan Area, dialogue with POCs from elsewhere, from Europe and around the world, to shine light on different ways of doing things and living together. The visit appear as an investigation as an inventory of new forms of sharing of mutual aid and cooperation in the city.

About fifteen new forms of collaboration in the city emerged grouped into three themes:

© Maison POC Collaborative City


The Collaborative City is a city where places, infrastructures, devices are designed to promote encounters between different populations, sectors, and entities that do not usually have the opportunity to interact. In order for collaboration to occur, it is necessary to meet, to get acquainted, to get to know each other…. Today, design must reinvent a way of “living together” that can withstand future problems and helps to resolve them.

A big family home!

The Institute of Motor Education Dabbadie seeks to create a place where the world of disability and the ordinary world can meet. Co-working spaces, handifablab, artists’ residences, exhibition spaces, restaurants, seminar spaces… “La Grande Maison”, an old mansion that is part of the establishment is experimentation with “universal” installations and encourages people to do things together. The design challenge here is to facilitate the reception, interaction, and collaboration between all the different populations passing by and the 200 children with disabilities who live here.


In the Collaborative City, practices, processes, and programs, help to intersect, merge and interweave populations to create synergy. Collaboration is not self-evident: it requires the systematization of meetings and equipping exchanges to facilitate these interactions. (Today, rethinking a city to be more crises resilient requires collaborative design solutions more than ever.)

Build the city with people who live there…

How can we approach public land use planning policies differently with the people who live here already and all those who are going to come here, without forgetting anyone? For the Deûle sector residential development project planned for 2040, the Urban Planning Department of the European Metropole of Lille has devised an approach that takes into account the needs of a large region: organizing co-construction workshops; bringing together people from very different backgrounds; brainstorming solutions; creating models and maps…


In the Collaborative City, goods, services and public policies are designed, developed and implemented together. Collaboration allows for greater efficiency, better integration, and it strengthens social ties, promotes inclusion, and restores a state of balance

The collective at the heart of real estate developments…

New housing construction at the Brunel site in Lille Fives District explores how the local residents’ collective BW Friches and the property developer 3F Nord-Artois can collaborate at every stage of the project: writing the specifications, choosing the social landlord, selecting the architect and landscape designer, each citizen had a say in choosing the name, green roofs, and bicycle sheds, as well as in brainstorming services and communal spaces. A giant collage of the residents’ portraits (by the photographer Marc Mounier-Kuhn) cover the industrial facade and illustrates this campaign.



Maison POC is an opportunity to browse the performance of collaborative cities in progress

Maison POC Collaborative City presents a vast design project that explores how collaboration emerges, how residents experiment with new ways of living together and how the city can reinvent and rebuild itself more collectively. Similar to an auditorium “being set-up,” POCs are still in gestation. They are getting ready to go on stage, to “prove themselves”. Behind the scenes, in the dark, under the spotlights… everything is in preparation, everything is still possible…

© Maison POC Collaborative City


Design in the collaborative city staged through storytelling, testimonials, and narratives The role of collaborative design is to mix otherness, to merge, to find common ground, to address common interests…. The project process, citizen discussion, and co-development between sectors are as relevant as the end results. Maison Collaborative City uses the format of street performances, forum theater, and the performing arts, to better communicate the importance of design based on people and their collective testimonies. It questions demand, demonstrates ideas through narratives, and communicates solutions through stories.


Principles and devices for participatory, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient design Beyond politics, intellectual debates and governance, democracy also takes place in our daily lives. Product design and services used in daily life can encourage mutual awareness, generate unconventional exchanges, increase socio-diversity, provide tools for dialogue, create synergies, promote inclusion, and ultimately contribute to strengthening democracy in our society.


Can we take practices from one city and apply them to another? Can design experiments inspire practitioners in the field? Maison POC demonstrates how cities can be collaborative and mutually inspire European cities by hosting projects from other cities in the URBACT network that also organize the exchange of sustainable practices. It also hosts a selection of research projects from schools and universities, all part of the DESIS Network of Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability, which explores how, following the pandemic, the collaborative city might reinvent itself. These projects, from here and abroad, resonate well together, reinforce each other and suggest many emerging trends.


In Shanghai, the University of Tonji has set up a design annex in public space. The “prototype street” in the popular Siping district is an entire street that houses not only university facilities but also the private sector as it works with the surrounding population to co-develop, design prototypes, and test new products and services.


Local authorities, companies and civil society are experimenting with co-creation through design Participatory conception processes involving all actors concerned are becoming commonplace in design projects for both public and private actors or citizens: everything that concerns me should include my involvement! This wide-reaching evolution in the way projects are carried out can be seen in the hundred or so sample projects of the Maison POC Collaborative City. It contrasts with practices that are too often pinpointed as top-down approaches, these hierarchical and overarching processes that cut-off disconnected stakeholders from the end users!


A model to reimagine a daily life in a more collaborative city The POC from here and abroad can be considered incentives for the transformation of our society, in desperate need of inspiring visions. Maison Collaborative City invites everyone to question how they live, “to shop” in the multiple POCs, to choose sustainable and inclusive solutions and to reimagine their own way of life. By physically moving inside a model, the visitor makes their own proof of concept: “What would my life look like if my city were more collaborative?”


(Re) inventing urban collaboration during social distancing The health crisis brutally challenges collaboration: the other person has become a potential danger, mutual support must maintain a distance of one meter fifty, social distancing prevents us from working together… Voices from all over the world interrupt the visitor’s solitary path and shift him back into the community. They explore the urgency of this crisis and the transition towards a new normal. They combine projects, plans and contexts for more resilient and sustainable cities which this crisis has revealed as imperative. And they reveal how new compulsory behaviors may also lead to new and exciting perspectives.


The projects from the European Metropole of Lille enter into dialogue with projects from design schools and universities all around the world


Fifteen or so labs from the international network DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Development) reiterate the POCs call to urgently rally resources, to rethink public space, and devise new forms of social interactions at a distance, something between in-person and online interactions….

Collab Grajaú, local and connected

In the Grajaú neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, the design university created “My Neighborhood Project” to build a strong relationship with people, encouraging residents to be active promoters of change in their community. During the pandemic period, a Collab Grajaú participatory mapping exercise identified small businesses and volunteers in the neighborhood in order to foster peer support and personal relationships between residents and workers. After the pandemic, the Collab Grajaú map will continue to be available online as a reliable resource of services promoting local economy and highlighting local small businesses.

Temporary Local Address

The Temporary Local Address project is looking at how homeless people can access Covid19 information and financial assistance during the pandemic. Students from Parsons in New York are working with Brooklyn Public Libraries to design a temporary local address service: how to provide access to personal mailboxes, notify homeless people, pick up mail, alleviate an emergency situation without creating insecurity…

© Maison POC Collaborative City


The Metropole’s projects will also echo a selection of initiatives to collaborate and live together from European cities in the URBACT network.


Located on the coast between Grasse and Antibes, the small town Mouans-Sartoux serves 1000, 100% local organic meals every day in its three primary school canteens. The secret is meticulous design of these sustainable canteens at every stage of the process: 7 hectares in the town center were set aside to build a certified organic farm. It is a municipally-owned farm where 3 municipal farmer-agents produce the bulk of the fruits and vegetables supplied to the canteens. The children, teachers, and kitchen teams participate and achieve almost zero food waste. The results are locally-farmed organic meals at the same price point as industrial catering. Mouans-Sartoux is setting the example of these good practices in transfer network for 10 cities in France and 6 cities in Europe.

Urban Living Room

In Cluj, the Urban Living Room Program creates domestic spaces similar to living rooms, kitchens, or bedrooms, in public spaces to encourage encounters and conversation between city citizens as if they were neighbors…

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