chapter one



Introducing the research

11 February 2024

Written by Kornelia Dimitrova

Why should we experiment with new collaboration forms?

Collaborations for Future is a program in which 10 designers and 10 scientists get the opportunity to collaborate 1-on-1 in an open-ended manner for a period of 9 months. No goal has been set, no outcome has been defined, no problem has been put up to be solved by them. The question is what would they choose to work on? How would they organise themselves to do it? What roles and agencies will they find? And what can we learn from having 10 of these collaborative experiments running in parallel? 

A research track has been designed to follow the progress of these collaborations, and to facilitate the collaborative process and learning. We aim to understand what happens when a designer and scientist work together: what collaboration forms emerge, what topic do they choose to focus on, what intervention or project do they think is worth pursuing. To understand what collaborations emerge and how these collaborations can be supported in the future, we’ve set up a series of 5 gatherings, in which we’ll take time to discuss key issues, tensions and observations during this 9-month collaboration process.

Moving away from pre-defined outcomes and roles creates room for professionals of all disciplines to critically reflect on what their professional position is in relation to climate change. That is unquestionably the biggest challenge of our time – how will each of us take a position and act towards climate change? What future will we build together? No single individual has the answer, and yet all of us do.

Embracing uncertainty through open collaboration

We simply do not know how the future will turn out. Where will the climate transition lead to, are current ideas of what the solutions are feasible, how successful will we be in mitigating any of the grave consequences climate scientists foresee. Globally, international teams of interdisciplinary scientists are collaborating, building complex models that can bring all of this together and can help us ‘calculate’ what the future may hold. But it all still depends on one key variable – how humans will do things together. We know that our current way of working and thinking about climate change is simply not good enough. The people who specialise in knowing what climate change is as a physical, psychological, social or economic phenomenon, and what the consequences of delayed action are, do not get the chance to influence decision making. The people in charge of decisions could never have enough time to fully grasp the complexity and urgency of the situation. These everyday practices and decisions need to change in order for the outcomes to change. We need to learn to work differently together. We need to embrace that we’ll never know enough, and that we need to act, and see every new policy, intervention and action as a trial, as an iteration. 


Professionals from many other fields are already redefining their work and practice in times of climate change – journalists, psychologists, documentary filmmakers, image editors, curators, policy-makers. We’ll invite some of them to join the event series for Unexpected encounters. After each event, we’ll publish an article about what we learned and what captured our imaginations. We hope to be inspired by their ways of taking responsibility and finding agency. But at the very least, we hope this helps us avoid the binary of design-science that our project’s recipe can create.

If we want to change how things are done, then we need to change how we do things, together.  With this project we are contributing to this change. Follow us as we publish our honest insights and critical reflections on how to facilitate collaborations between designers and scientists, what challenges and synergies they encounter, what we can learn from those who’ve already changed how they work, and last but not least – what happens when designers and scientists work together on something they thought was worth working on.