When systems comes together – this example from Co-Lab when the different actors around unaccompanied immigrant children and youth meet.

Exercise where the children and adolescents get to know each other and express how they feel.

Sometimes it easier to express oneself through other means than words – for instance using clay.

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Co-lab Sweden

Over the past five years Sweden has received more than 50,000 unaccompanied child and youth migrants. Co-lab Sweden is working at the mandate of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs to create better welfare and a faster way into society for these individuals.

With support from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, bin autumn 2016 the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) were allocated funding to operate Co-lab Sweden. The Swedish Industriall Design Foundation, SVID, was commissioned to implement the initative. Co-lab Sweden is intended to act as a multisectoral platform for innovation and cooperation in order to solve, from the user's perspective, complex issues at the national level. The aim is to be able to apply the forum and methods used to any complex social challenge.

"The lab's first challenge is to create a better everyday existence for unaccompanied children and young people," explains Pia McAleenan, project manager at Co-lab Sweden.
Bringing actors from the non-profit, private and public sectors together with the target group in a secure environment far from the regular organisational functions creates better conditions for achieving ideas without silo logistics. New solutions to complex social challenges must be met by multisectoral and scaleable approaches.

Since the beginning of autumn 2016 some 40 actors from the public, non-profit and private sectors have been linked to the lab. These actors have med on several occasions and discussed multisectoral challenges and opportunities. At the same time Co-lab Sweden has met a large number of unaccompanied young people, who have described their situation and how they experience the system. In the work to create a better everyday life for unaccompanied young people, it has been important to give them influence within the contexts they are part of. They are experts about their own situations.

"We're working according to a model where we are trying to grasp and understand the needs of these unaccompanied people," Pia McAleenan says. "By merely talking, we believe we are missing out on many insights. That's why we're also working with manifesting in various materials plus image-based storytelling, all in an enjoyable and inspiring way.

"We've also noticed it's often easier to have a freeranging discussion about various topics, instead of using in-depth interviews and other more traditional information-gathering methods. This applies whether we meet with unaccompanied children and young people or with working adults."

The information and insights from the conversations with the unaccompanied young people were taken back into the lab for use as a basis for discussion. The lab participants chose three challenges to focus on more: the lack of information, reinforcing the adults around the children, and reinforcing the children's and young people's identity and sense of self. Based on these challenges, the lab participants have worked with the unaccompanied individuals to generate ideas for proposed solutions to the needs identified within the framework of these three challenge areas.

"It's fantastic how Co-lab Sweden has captured the views of the children and young people and what they feel is important," says Sonja Ghaderi, coordinator in Uppsala Municipality. "This can be challenging and is something many people need to improve at. That inspires me."

During the spring the lab participants met on three occasions in three different groupings, in which they worked with the three challenge areas. The unaccompanied young people have continually been given opportunities to contribute and suggest improvements. The smaller groupings have worked according to the model: capture and understand the insights in order to create innovative solutions that renew the young people's welfare.

In May 2017 all the lab participants met in a large group to present their ideas to each other. Also present were unaccompanied young people, who could ask questions and give relevant feedback. Some of the ideas that arose during the work done in the spring focus on getting the public-sector actors to cooperate at a higher level in order to enable more independence and self-esteem among the unaccompanied individuals. Co-lab Sweden also perceives good opportunities to improve these people's everyday life by hiring previously arrived unaccompanied young people who have been granted a residence permit to help the newer arrivals with such things as questions about their rights and obligations, and questions about Sweden and culture. The next step is to test the ideas on a small scale but in live situations. This will allow the solutions to be refined before they are scaled up to the national level. The tests will be carried out by the lab participants within their respective organisations. During the entire test phase, the participants will receive support from one another via a number of network meetings.


The article is written by Fredrik Olausson and is published in Swedish Design Research Journal no 1, 2017.

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Swedish Design Research Journal no 1 2017

Framsidan till Swedish Design Research Journal nr 1 2017

This article is published in Swedish Design Research Journal no 1, 2017. 

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SVID, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation | Svensksundsvägen 13, 111 49 Stockholm | info@svid.se I +46 (0)8 406 84 40


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SVID, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation | Svensksundsvägen 13, 111 49 Stockholm | info@svid.se I +46 (0)8 406 84 40