Meet The Winners: Carleton University’s Co/lab

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Chair of the Month

Emma Weckerling
Emma Weckerling
Emma is the Former Managing Editor of Work Design Magazine.

Meet the Carleton University team: winners in the Collaboration category.

Cathy Malcolm Edwards, Graduate Student and Designer; Lead, Coordinated Accessibility Strategy

Najeeba Ahmed, Graduate Student and Designer

Dawson Clark, Graduate Student and Designer

Ruzbeh Irani, Graduate Student and Designer

Check out their submission:

This is a student submission – graduating in 2022. 

Often the problems we are dealing with as a society are complex. Change in one part of the system causes ripple effects throughout, requiring continuous learning, adaptation, and growth. Universities are often seen as anchors to help think through the complexity. As part of our graduate design studio, our team created future scenarios and subsequent strategic directions that could inform the development of a strategic plan for our academic institution, Carleton University.

The following question guided the overall design for the team’s project: “How can we collectively generate creative strategies in the face of wicked futures?” The resulting concept was co-actualization, a proposed, innovative way to engage with the future that requires and values people with different kinds of knowledge working together to solve problems. Collaboration and partnership are like the tip of the iceberg seen above the waterline; they can make co-actualization visible to the rest of society, while underneath the surface, there is so much more that exists and is required to support it. Central to this concept was the creation of Co/lab.

Co/lab is a space that would create a sense of place and connection for those on campus and in the community. By repurposing existing infrastructure on campus, Co/lab would provide community programming (e.g., community kitchens) and co-living apartments in residents where students, staff, faculty, and community could live and engage. Additionally, Co/lab would have ‘not’ spaces and healing places where people would be encouraged to be present, mindful, and embrace connection with nature and biophilic design elements within built structures. Given our location on the traditional lands of the Algonquin people, incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and being would be inherent in all aspects of design. In the shorter term, the university could launch a new Co/lab Residency Program to impact future pedagogy by educating and empowering all stakeholders. The creation of community classrooms would value living and professional experiences, recognizing them as critical elements and pathways of academic pursuits.

To exemplify the concept, the team chose to develop a persona for each of the various stakeholders identified. The profiles included a short bio outlining motivations, goals that they would want to achieve through the program, collaborative values they would reflect in their role, and how they would support the other stakeholders involved. The personae became a dynamic way to represent the interconnectedness and dimensions associated with the Residency Program and Co/lab and co-actualization itself. Co/lab is a value-driven solution driving collaboration and innovation. Guided by principles of moral leadership, it delivers programs, courses, and projects. Co/lab is built on a diversity of knowledge, people, and organizations working together to solve societal problems through the lens of inclusion. It encourages space (whether physical, virtual or within one’s mind) to listen, reflect, honour, and create. Perhaps by breaking down the barriers and silos that we hold as individuals and in society, we can genuinely start to use ‘together thinking and doing’ to address complex issues while building on the values and reciprocity of co-actualization.

Click on an image to see it full size.

To celebrate their win, we connected with the team to see how their idea evolved since it was submitted.

“From a tactical perspective, the University has since released its Strategic Integrated Plan, along with three sister strategies, the Coordinated Accessibility Strategy, Kinàmàgawin, and the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Plan. While we do not know what influence, if any, the output from the graduate design studio project had on the strategies, the team recognizes the commitment of the institution to place inclusion at the centre of its values and culture. This notion is central to moral leadership, which ultimately underscores the concept of coactualization and, subsequently, the future-forward idea of Co/lab.

Overall, the Co/Lab project is more significant than re-imagining the university environment in the 21st century. These past 18 months have shown that we all need connection, community, and opportunities to collaborate in order to thrive. As a larger consciousness, we have realized that the ability to be productive remotely, but more importantly, we have learned what is lost when we are isolated. We believe that the Co/Lab and projects like this provide a jumping-off point for imagining how we can return to ‘together thinking and doing’, not as we always have, but as how we have always wanted to be.”

Comments from the Jury:

The strong attributes of this particular presentation is the Strategic development of the goals and the values statement that they have as the anchoring.

I love the inclusion of freedom to fail and then the fact that accessibility has been layered into this as well. The definition of providing the tools necessary for those who do not have the means. I think that’s a really important consideration. So I think this is quite successful.

🏆 Did this submission earn your vote? Vote for the People’s Choice award here! 🏆

Voting ends September 24th – one vote per person. 

A special thank you to our sponsors: 


Thank you to our 2021 Market Partners: Workplace Evolutionaries (WE) • Allwork.Space • IFMA Foundation • ACT • IIDA

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