Multidisciplinary International Projects: a personal experience

Author: Alexandra Lagorio

International projects are always an excellent opportunity not only to meet other students and researchers working in our field but also to learn about cultures other than our own. Working with a large university often means encountering people from all over the world, who have different cultural backgrounds and different ways of approaching problems and finding solutions. In the case I am telling you about in this article, the Bergamo 2.035\Smarter Citizens project, the collaboration was with Harvard School of Design and the students who participated in this project really came from all over the world: China, India, Iraq, Spain, Greece, Vietnam, Turkey and of course Italy and USA!

I said School of Design. Besides being an international project, the Bergamo 2.035 project was also multidisciplinary. The Italian students, in fact, had different backgrounds: Engineering, Economics, Law, Psychology, Communication Science and Tourism. They had to collaborate with design students overcoming barriers not only due to different geographical origins but also due to different methodological approaches.

In particular, the course involved the collaboration among 12 students from the University of Bergamo of different backgrounds (economic-legal, humanistic and engineering) and 12 students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (with knowledge in industrial/informatics and architectural design) for the definition of some design ideas (which will have as output the definition of new products, services or processes) in the Smart City area.

Each year the course touches on a different theme (e.g., Food, Safety, Mobility, Air Transport, Retailing) and the theme for 2020 was health in all its forms: from the concept of “healthy city” to lifestyle, passing through the role of new technologies in the management of pathologies and the patient-medical relationship.

Every year in February, a workshop was held in Bergamo with students and teachers from Harvard GSD (Graduate School of Design) to kick-off the idea development phase. During the workshop, we invited some guests with experience in the field for delivering speeches (lasting about an hour in English, of course) that were not only about an in-depth study of the chosen themes but also of inspiration for the initial design phase of the project ideas, to encourage students to “dare” more in their proposals.

The course was strongly marked by the definition of project ideas that are innovative and “disruptive” and that are born from the effective collaboration between Italian and American students.

These seven years of the project have allowed me to learn a lot of things. I understood how sometimes thinking “out of the box” and starting from a more design-oriented approach can provide a broader range of solutions to solve a problem. I have also learnt from GSD students and professors to “dare” more in design proposals (it is always possible to put everything back firmly to the real plan). I also learned to relate with people with a different background and a different approach to things. But more than anything else I had the opportunity to meet a lot of young students with their dreams, their projects, their ideas for the future. I have seen the birth of friendships, love stories and start-ups!

Each one of the people I met taught me something, something that I could bring as baggage not only in the work I do but in life.

And this is one of the most beautiful and exciting aspects of our work, but we will talk more about it in the next articles so… stay tuned!

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