Wednesday, May 20, 2015

DSDN 481: Project 8

Wicked Problems - Social Housing & Reform

Q ~ 1          A Problem Worth Solving
Social Housing. The supply of it, the regulation of it, and the construction/purchase of more of it are all presently on the political table for New Zealand. The Social Housing Reform Bill passed under urgency in Parliament in November 2013 is part of a multi-year plan to advance capabilities of NZ in terms of social housing and aiding vulnerable citizens. The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (2015) states that the review of the NZ social housing sector revealed “a number of issues, including … the current social housing environment was not sustainable, ...increasing demand, … not enough social housing providers” (para. 4-5).

While positive social housing reform seems like a no-brainer, NZ social housing is likely becoming temporary housing for a lot of people. David Hargreaves (2015) states that with respect to the reform, “we've received quite a lot of fluff and very little meat” (para. 2), while Labour’s Housing Spokesman Phil Twyford (2013, as cited in Fox, 2013) stated that “National was squeezing state houses in a time of great need” (para. 20), and the resultant changes would heavily affect the funding available as well as strain sheltering capabilities.

Q ~ 2          Research Context
Hargreaves (2015) suggests the supply of social housing in Wellington falls short of estimated demand in 10 years time. Wellington is a useful location for this research as the Wellington City Council (2015) manages “2300 houses and units...around the city” (para. 10), which places both the tenants, owners, local government and national government all within walking distance. The tenants and local council are both stakeholders in this “wicked problem”, and will be affected by the outcome of any proposed solution.

Activities would be done to ascertain the perceptions of the stakeholders (tenants) in the usage of social housing as temporary living. Activities would strive to understand the day-to-day experiences of the stakeholders in the usage of spaces in temporary social housing and look to creating a solution through the use of design as research.
Q ~ 3          Research Question, Aims & Objectives
I think social housing should be a means of getting people back onto their feet. I see potential in Social Housing becoming outfitted temporary housing, looking at how provided objects and spaces could function as dynamic entities.  Refining this into the topic “Customisable Temporary Accommodation as Social Housing” allows formulating a question looking at components of customisation, e.g, furniture, objects, designed systems.

Question - How might the engagement with spaces in temporary social housing be impacted by a collaboratively designed system?

Aim 1 - I want to develop an understanding and insight into the way tenants use spaces in temporary social housing.
Objective A - I will monitor and deconstruct the way spaces in temporary social housing are 
currently used by people.
Objective B - I will collaboratively analyse and explore the way objects and furniture are used 
creatively beyond their original intended function.
Aim 2 - I want to design & explore designed systems as a means of facilitating greater personalisation of spaces in temporary social housing.
Objective A - I will develop an understanding of needs and constraints through prototyping 
and collaborative testing.
Objective B - I will refine and construct a modular system that can meet a multitude of needs 
in temporary social housing.

Q ~ 4          Research Methods
Initial exploration of work - Phase 1 involves developing an understanding of the users and avenues for collaboration. Site visits, observation, and experience mapping would work towards understanding the spaces and the way people use them. Observation would develop understanding of the users themselves and enable me to choose more suited participatory methods in the following phase. Experience mapping would enable self reporting and collaborative planning for a shared vision in the next phase.

Discovery Processes - Phase 2 seeks to collaboratively develop a shared vision and desired outcome. Bodystorming, mind-mapping, and photo studies would enable collaborative explorations into what the user values in order to develop effective outcomes. Bodystorming and mind-mapping encourage collaborative creative pursuits as well as dissecting the current status quo, all while enabling active design ideation. Photo studies encourage self-reporting by the users and collaborative dissections of the experiences.

Prototyping - Phase 3 involves developing the ideas and understandings from the first two phases into workable systems that suit the priorly identified needs. Mock-ups and cooperative prototyping would be essential here at giving users the ability to test and design the system as well as giving voice to opinions valuable to the designer. Both of these methods would facilitate collaborative physical designing, giving the user opportunities for design input, suggestions, and a sense of ownership as well as reflective analysis.

Q ~ 5          Research Outcomes & Outputs
Gaining a knowledge and understanding of how people and objects fit together in the broader scheme of the wicked problem would enable research to strive towards a concrete solution. The collaboratively outputted designed system would seek to address desire for customisation in a temporary environment and connect users to their homes.

The primary question of success in Participant Design Research (PDR) would be looking at whether there had been an improvement in quality of life for the participants, as well as whether the project and designed system had been developed collaboratively. The question of collaboration is the secondary criterion, yet arguably more important to PDR; defining whether or not the research and its solution had resulted out of methodical group studies and participation. Finally, the last criterion would establish whether or not the project had succeeded through continual reflection and critical analysis, as well as ensuring continued support and user input. All of these criteria support assessing success in the research project, ensuring a more appropriate designed system that effectively considers the users.


Fox, M. (2013). State House For Life No Longer. Stuff. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from

Hargreaves, D. (2015). David Hargreaves tries to make sense out of the Government's plans to shift more social housing into the hands of community providers. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from,. (2015). Social Housing Reform. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from,. (2015). About the Council's Social Housing. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from

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