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Lina, Jordan

Developing digital creativity labs in Amman

Have you ever heard of a mindscape? Social innovator Lina Halaseh describes it as a place where you can be innovative, and stimulate your mind and ideas. This was the idea that Lina had — and her recent social project has turned it into a reality.

That project has re-envisioned the way young Jordanians interact with technology and with each other. In partnership with DOT Jordan, Lina launched a digital creativity lab in the capital city of Amman in May 2017.

The creativity lab is a reimagining of one of the 160 knowledge stations the Jordanian government opened across the country more than a decade ago. “We wanted to put some life into those spaces, and not just have it be a place where people work alone on computers,” Lina laughs. “The first thing we did was take all the computers and put them in one place so people were forced to socialize. This is how people make their living nowadays — by working in a more communal economy where they connect. We wondered why our spaces do not reflect that.”

Lina and her project partner Natalia refined their idea for the lab through Digital Opportunity Trust’s social innovation journey course. “We had all these crazy innovative ideas but we were not structured because the world around us was moving so fast. DOT gave us a map, and taught us that if you cannot find what you want to do, make it up,” Lina says.

They knew they wanted to create a project that would sustain itself and work with young people, especially under-employed Jordanian youth. Both Lina and Natalia have the skills to design a youth innovation space — Lina has a background in architecture and Natalia studied design.

Gender inclusive digital spaces

One of the challenges Lina has faced is designing a lab that is both progressive and acknowledging of Jordan’s cultural norms. This has been especially difficult as she and Natalia try to localize global design ideas.

For example, one of Lina’s first ideas was to put bean bag chairs in a corner so women and men could use the space to collaborate and brainstorm. But they got pushback around the idea of both genders sitting together so casually, and they had to go back and design another collaboration area.

In another situation, Lina had to consider her choice of colour for the lab. Its walls are covered with brightly coloured icons illustrating the curriculum that will be offered. She made sure these colours and icons were neutral as possible, and included both English and Arabic words.

Design aside, Lina says the digital creativity lab has an important role to play in a country that does not have public spaces for men, women, and youth to interact in creative and collaborative ways. “It is nice and needed to have a place where both women and men can be comfortable and at the same time evolve.”

The creativity lab will offer DOT’s foundational innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital skills training, as well as give youth a place to get online. Lina says she believes this online connectivity is the best way for young people — especially women — to dial into the wider world beyond their classrooms, communities, and country.

“Digital gives you a level playing field where everyone can share their ideas,” she says. “It doesn’t matter where they come from and what they want to do. It is an alternative reality where we are judged by our ideas and impact, and not our gender.”

The digital creativity lab in Amman is just the first space Lina plans to open. She is currently planning innovation hubs in three other cities, including in northern and southern Jordan.

At DOT we’re excited to bring you compelling stories that highlight the impact of daring young social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurship and social innovation is a journey, so we invite you to follow along with how the Kingdom of Jordan is continuing to evolve Knowledge Stations into Digital Creativity Labs at http://www.ks.gov.jo/.

This #DOTYouth Spotlight was developed as a part of DOT’s 2017 Unconference in Rwanda, Kenya, supported by the Mastercard Foundation and the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.

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