Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

This post is from University of Texas at Dallas student Sumayah Abdulla. Sumayah along with 30 of her classmates participated with Project Pluralist in a Collaborative Project during the 2020 Spring Semester. The aim of Collaborative Projects is to work with college students on tackling the various aspects of discrimination, intolerance and extremism through design studios or project work. And for students to develop an understanding of the problem, its implications and possible solutions.

Last spring semester my Design Research class took part in the Collaborative Project with Project Pluralist. After the initial presentation and introduction to Project Pluralist and the structure of the class. We quickly learned about the collaborative nature of the class — not only were we in a collaborative project with a social impact initiative, we were going to work in groups during the entire length of the project. We were asked to select topics that addressed the issues of discrimination, prejudice and hate plaguing our society and communities. My group selected the topic of hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

My team and I started the project by using multiple design research methods to collect information and statistics about hate crimes in general and those targeted specifically towards the LGBTQ community. We started the deep dive by organized statistics and information into two categories — “systematic factors” and “cultural factors”. We created a mind map combining all the social and systemic factors. The map allowed us to see where factors connect, overlap and correlate. An example is the overlap between media’s influence on social opinions and the current prevalence of police brutality spreading on social media.

Working on the project opened my eyes to discrimination and struggles that hadn’t occurred to me. I had no idea the amount of hate crimes and abuse the community still faces in my own city and county.

Participation in Project Pluralist’s Collaborative Project helped me build empathy and understanding towards people who may be different than me, people who experience prejudices I have never had to deal with and who deserve to be included, respected and treated equally in our society.

As an overall experience, exploring a social issue from design perspective made me realize how design thinking and design research techniques can be used not only to understand and improve products and apps, but also to understand and break down complex social problems to their essence.

This provided me and my classmates the ability and space to find creative solutions to impact and improve lives. I am grateful for the opportunity of working on a project that provided me with a new perspective and understanding of the role of design in our society.

Reach out to us if you are interested in bringing the Collaborative Project to your classroom.

Engages youth in examining intolerance & extremism, and in doing so cultivates the next generation of pluralist citizens.