Sustainability Landscape Study
– Volunteer Experience Programme

About this
programme

Through a Good Design Research grant from DesignSingapore Council, we are exploring what sustainability means to consumers, understand the visual semiotics commonly used by businesses to communicate sustainability and derive the best ways to activate consumers’ involvement as sustainability partners.

As part of this programme, we have invited volunteer designers and researchers to help with qualitative research, consisting of 30 in-depth interviews and 6 home visits.

Programme Leads

TRIA is an award-winning, close-the-loop company for packaging – offering a range of innovative and sustainable packaging solutions from product, services to end-to-end ecosystem.

They believe that circularity can be a positive-sum game and seek to create a win-win-win outcome for consumers, businesses and the environment.

Studio Dojo helps leaders, organisations and communities build the capacity to be more creative, courageous and purposeful, so that together we can do more good for the worlds we live in.

They do that by designing impactful learning experiences through training, coaching and community experience programmes.

Programme Highlights

  • Contribute to a social cause by putting your design research skills to good use
  • Gain a deeper appreciation of the complexities involved in sustainability
  • Collaborate with like-minded and like-hearted designers and researchers
  • Receive valuable advice from industry experts in design, research, and sustainability
  • Immerse in unique experiences curated just for you (e.g. intertidal and sustainability trails, visits to industrial-grade composters and textile recyclers)

Key Timeline

Briefing with Volunteers

8 & 13 Dec 2022

Our online briefings were held via Zoom over 2 sessions.

Thank you for the overwhelming response to our call for volunteers! We were more than 2x oversubscribed and our volunteer recruitment is now closed.

Programme Kick-off

14 Jan 2023

On 14 January, our 16 volunteers came together for a full day session of building relationships, context-setting and recalibrating ourselves for the exciting 6-month journey ahead.

We are grateful for the insightful sharings from Pei Kang, our partner from TRIA, and some of our experts, Cheaw Hwei, Natalie and Li Seng, who joined the session and will be mentoring the volunteers in their research.

With the generous guidance from our design & sustainability experts on board and the enthusiasm of our volunteers, this programme will undoubtedly be a meaningful endeavour for everyone.

TRIA Digester Visit & Desk Research Sharing

11 Feb 2023

On 11 February, our volunteers had the opportunity to witness TRIA’s proprietary digester in action! It was fascinating to see and understand the thinking behind behind a closed-loop process. Thank you TRIA for taking us through a tour of the digester!

The volunteers then shared their insights from their desk research, approaching sustainability through multiple angles!

Curious insights sprouted from the sharings such as:

  • Defining the sustainability of Multinational apparel organisations versus boutique apparel stores
  • Target audiences being motivated by the identity of ‘wokeness’ rather than sustainability itself
  • Companies keeping their environmental efforts unspoken (greenhushing) to avoid scrutiny and being labelled as greenwashing
  • Men avoiding sustainable goods because they seem ‘feminine’
  • Self-sufficiency as a cultural value holding back ‘greater good’ approaches to sustainability

The insights shared broadened perspectives on how they might curate their interview questions, better equipping them to approach the upcoming interviews and house visits.

It was a fascinating experience of understanding sustainability deeper, broadened perspectives of what sustainability could look like, and growing as one volunteer cohort.

Interview Skills Workshop

18 Feb 2023

On 18 February, we conducted a workshop for our volunteers to support them before they embark on their journey conducting interviews and home visits. We went back to the fundamentals of interviewing, learning tips and tricks from each other and our research & semiotics expert, Shaun!

The teams also spent time looking back on their highlights and areas they want to improve from their past month together. It was heartening to hear the three teams share their triumphs and trials, and call for a cohort-wide sharing to learn and grow together. Although the three teams work separately, we all felt the warm spirit of togetherness and support in the room that day.

It is exciting to see the the growth of the cohort, not only in research skills but also in their relationships as teammates and friends!

Semiotics Workshop & Bedok Community Trail

11 Mar 2023

On 11 March, our volunteers dived deeper into the world of semiotics. With our research & semiotics expert, Shaun, we explored how signs and symbols are used to convey meaning and stories subconsciously to the receiver.

After, we embarked on a community trail with our partner, Green Nudge, where we observed the relationships between humans and environments in Bedok. The trail opened our eyes to the complexity of sustainability in Singapore, made even richer with the newfound lens of semiotics.

From the day’s activities, there was a sense of awe and curiosity from the volunteers as they developed a more nuanced understanding and a greater appreciation for the complexity of sustainability in Singapore.

“My Role In The Climate Crisis” Workshop and Climate Fresk Game

1 Apr 2023

On 1 April, our volunteers had an insightful time exploring the climate crisis through the lens of individual responsibility and a systems level perspective.

In her workshop, our expert, Natalie, brought us through an exercise which shed light on the designers’ role in Climate Action work.

In the later half of the day, Thibaut and his team led the volunteers through a game of Climate Fresk. A simple activity with cards and markers uncovered the deep complexity of the climate crisis made into a digestible, interactive, and enjoyable experience for the volunteers.

The room was buzzing with conversations about the day’s experience long after the session ended. Hope and enthusiasm was abundant - great attitudes to have as the volunteers continue with their interviews!

Forest Walk

15 Apr 2023

On 15 April, our volunteers gathered for a Forest Walk at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Together with our Forest School coach, Hui Ying, we soaked in the sights and sounds of nature while having candid conversations.

It was indeed valuable to slow down and connect with nature. Grounding to the purpose of sustainability, the volunteers seem energised to continue on with their interviews.

Intertidal Walk

6 May 2023

What a wet and wild experience in the wee hours of 6 May! We explored the rich biodiversity of our shores with our partner, Green Nudge, uncovering the stresses that face the intertidal ecosystem.

We found carpet anemones, various types of sea stars, and many other spectacular marine life!

While we had an enriching adventure, we also collected 32kg of trash during the short 2-hour session.

The impact of poor sustainability practices were undeniable. It was both an enlightening yet solemn experience - a meaningful experience indeed!

With widened perspectives, we hope that a deeper understanding of the impact of sustainability efforts support the volunteers with their upcoming interview analysis phase.

A big thank you to our friends who connected with us through our shout-out as well! It was a pleasure to have you join us in the early morning session.

Introduction to Sensemaking

16 & 20 May 2023

Our volunteers will soon be completing their interviews and home visits, are moving into the Analysis Phase of the Sustainable Landscape Study.

On the week of 15 May, we conducted 2 sessions to equip our volunteer researchers with relevant skills for analysing their raw data.

The first session, “Introduction to Sensemaking”, was a broad overview of what it means to sense-make data, and how signals and patterns could be put together to form insights. In the second session, “What Makes A Good Insight”, we had an experiential session where the volunteers dived deeper into analysis to go beyond conventional insights - a crucial skill in analysis.

Driven to uncover valuable insights for the study, the volunteers asked sharp questions that were key in their venture through the Analysis Phase of this study. We hope that the support from Studio Dojo & TRIA will prove to be practical and beneficial as they continue in this programme.

Life Cycle Analysis & Circular Economy Experts Session

30 May 2023

It was such a treat to have experts from abroad contribute to the growth and learning of our volunteers!

In this session, our Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) expert So Pyay demonstrated the useful applications and limitations of using LCA in uncovering sustainability gaps in organisations. Next, Alice and Lu Ying, our Circular Economy experts, shared how they guide organisations towards business viable sustainability through circular design.

It was an eye-opening perspective of sustainability on multiple levels, allowing us to truly appreciate how sustainability requires many hands to work.

Questions were abundant after their sharing, with everyone curious about possible approaches SMEs can make towards sustainability. Focused, excited, and driven, our volunteers took these insights as they continue with the analysis phase of this research study.

Leveraging Emotions in Effective Communications

6 Jun 2023

“We don’t make rational decisions, we just rationalise our emotional ones.”

Venturing into the space of emotions, Angela, our expert in behavioural communications, shared how advertising leverages emotions to influence consumers.

In this session conducted over Zoom, our volunteers learned nuances to emotions, and how understanding pains and gains can help us shape behaviours. We hope this was a timely experience as they move deeper into the analysis phase of this study.

Report Sharing & Volunteer Appreciation

8 July 2023

On 8 July, our volunteers gathered for a session to close the six-month Sustainability Landscape Study Volunteer Experience Programme.

They shared rich research insights on different narratives surrounding sustainability, and reflected on their experiences and learnings. We invited esteemed panelists, Low Cheaw Hwei and Professor Seeram to critique their reports, looking at further possibilities and nuances of the research insights.

Many thanks to our volunteers for their heartfelt sharing and commitment throughout the programme! Special thanks goes to our experts as well for guiding the group on this journey.

With the closing of the 6-month Volunteer Experience Programme, we are now continuing with a small group of volunteers to consolidated the reports provided from the three teams.

Past Volunteer Experience Programmes
We’ve Run

Youth Mental Health Help-Seeking Behavior Study

Conversations around mental health and wellbeing have gained increasing urgency in recent years, especially after the disruptions COVID-19 brought about.

In light of this, Common Ground and Studio Dojo piloted a citizen-led, ground-up process in 2020 and 2021, interviewing 30 young Singaporean employees and 10 employers to explore how mental wellbeing is handled in the workplace.

The amazing people involved: 18 volunteers, 2 teams, 2 weeks full-time.

Reimagining Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace

After presenting the results of the Youth Mental Health Study to stakeholders, the feedback received led to the realization that many organisations were interested in how they can better support people with mental health conditions. However, they are also at a loss on how to provide mental health support at their workplaces. How can we help these organisations find support for their staff to manage mental health and wellbeing? How would they know what works or what does not? Where do they even begin?

In our search to answer these questions, we set off on a journey to reimagine the future of the workplace. We turned to UX/service designers – who brought with them fresh perspectives, creative energies and service design skills – and matched them with 4 organisations on a journey over five months (and beyond) to explore new possibilities and prototype mental health and well-being practices.

The fabulous people involved: 15 volunteers, 4 teams, 5 months of 2-4 hrs/week, 5 design/mental health coaches, 14 staff across 4 organisations.

More details: https://ourcommonground.com.sg/reimagine-mental-wellbeing-home

Resources
Journey Map: Helpful and Safe Response From Employer
Journey Map: Well-meaning but Unhelpful Response From Employer
Research Report: Reimagine Mental Wellbeing at the Workplace Report
Field Guide: How can I help my organisation support better mental well-being practices at work?

Continued Impact Of Past Volunteers’ Work

More than 2 years after, The Tapestry Project, a non-profit mental health advocate, used the research findings from the volunteer programmes that Studio Dojo and Common Ground ran to create a game aimed at exploring how mental health challenges are perceived within the workplace. They also created workshops to accompany the game experience.

Crossroads by The Tapestry Project: https://crossroads.thetapestryproject.sg

Partners

Want to know more?

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us at volunteer@studiodojo.com