Jay Cousins is one of the co-founders in Open Design city. He studied Industrial Design Innovation at Sheffield Hallam University. He is interested in empowerment. Methods, processes and objects that enable people to meet their own needs. To help themselves. He is also interested in creating a life for himself that is sustainable without sacrifice – Minimal Footprint Hedonism (courtesy of Christophe Vaillant). He’s been in Open Design city since it’s birth, so he’s been in betahaus since 1st April 2010.
You are from South England. What made you decide to come to Berlin?
I’d closed down my old business, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life and a friend offered their couch. I thought why not.
I never looked back, Berlin is a place for explorers, for creatives and people exploring the edges of possibility. It’s fascinating, exciting and laden with potential. Berlin is one of the last Bohemias, and I hope it remains so. Berlin gives me hope for the world.
What are you doing exactly?
Good Question – I’ve taken to describing myself as an enabler of interesting projects. I’m motivated by prototyping new forms of collaboration and new forms of living. This year I resolved only to work on projects that make sense, for me this means it has to be emotionally, economically, socially and environmentally meaningful. Presently I’m Chaordinating a MakerLab on Human Rights – an autonomous event where people are encouraged to explore, and share their ideas on Human Rights through making, and action.
You are based in Open design city; in betahaus. How do you like working in a co-working space – particularly Open Design City?
I thrive in collaborative spaces, ODC/ betahaus is a bridging space that allows for people of very different backgrounds to feel comfortable – from suits to hackers. I love the mix, it creates opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise arise.
Could you tell us more about the Human Rights MakerLab and about the vision behind the event?
A symbol for Human Rights was crowd sourced last year, we want to create the opportunity for people to attach meaning to this symbol, and to explore what Human Rights means to them through action and participation. The MakerLab is created by those who attend it, and who build it together. We create an event frame, where anyone who is interested to create an action or discussion within the frame of Human Rights is free to do so. People can even spontaneously participate – creating and action or workshop at the event, as well as attending and participating in the actions of others.
Right now the Human Rights MakerLab developing the infrastructure and approach for the event DMY (International design festival Berlin). How did you come in touch with the DMY, and do you have any expectations about the DMY?
The first MakerLab was born at DMY, so it’s exciting to be back in the space. The first MakerLab gave birth to the Open Design City, so our fates our intertwined. I’m looking forward to the event, and to see what people create with the opportunity – it’s always fascinating to see what grows out of simple seeds of permission to engage, and the chance to meet and work with others.
What is the aim of the Human Rights Maker Lab? Do you have any challenges in the future for The Human Rights Maker Lab?
The aim of the Human Rights MakerLab is to create a space for exploration of the topic, in order that solutions and ideas can occur, and existing successes can be shared.
Personally I would like to see the lab continue in other countries. For me I would like to see the Lab develop, share and curate products, actions and behaviours which can be replicated and adopted to empower the Human Rights of everyone. Many of the rights and
freedoms which we take for granted are under threat, and there are others which we simply do not enjoy. We will become more aware of the absence of rights as the resources we require become harder to find or more expensive. I hope the Lab can demonstrate to people what they are capable of, and also raise questions as to what Human Rights means, and why it is relevant to our lives.
I’m particularly excited by the prospect of a device that would contain all the information necessary for citizens of the world to create their own structures of empowerment – from social behaviours and strategies to combat oppression to knowledge of DIY medicine, farming tech, energy generation…this would act as a bootstrapped and slightly slower internet, connecting villages and cities with information relevant to improving lives and ensuring rights. The really exciting thing is – we can already see how it will work – we will begin prototyping in the lab.
What kind of advice would you give to young designers or explores looking to become successful these days?
First define your terms of success – note these are your terms not those of your parents or peer group. For me it’s the freedom to create in my own way, for you it may be different. Old models and business paradigms are failing, the future of everything lies in telling new stories. I travelled to old route, it left me miserable. Define what you want from the world, and what you want to offer. Communicate it clearly and encourage others to join you, allow for them to find their benefit from collaboration. Begin it – don’t seek perfection, just start to do something. Above all make your work meaningful and joyful.
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