The research question

Social Design, what is it, how far can you go as a designer, is now part of my work method. The Sandberg  research question was not only about designing ‘things’. It turned out to also be a analytical look into Social Design projects and Social Work. Finding out more about the social and political practices.

My approach was to completely indulge myself into the diverse components of social design work. ‘Over-educating’ myself in the social process. Not caring about design yet. Designing the network was prioritized.

Executing a research method like this takes more than two years. But by living the context I have a line-up of new projects to start with.

My recommendation would be to bring students in contact with a theme, at least two before they start a Master Program. Analyse the components of their central theme,  – why this theme, how? – work from that. By adding social support – a ‘buddy’ for students –  this would be a new component in the social design learning methodology.

Hereby the interview (uncut) with Sophie Krier and Erik Wong, Sandberg Sessions


The Sandpit monologue. The Refugee out of Procedure, the Mayor, The Lawyer. Sandberg Institute 2016

IMG_4693 IMG_4694

Hello goodday, My name is Layla. I live in Amsterdam now.

We need help. I am out, on the street at 9.00 in the morning. Rain or not, if I menstruate or not, if I am in pain or not. My eyes are hurting, I can feel my heart beating. I hear this sound constantly. In my ears, I hear a beating, a high sound. Can you tell me where the doctor is? How can I get help?

This man, he comes in without knocking, when I am not ready yet. For me it is hard to leave at nine, I need more time for myself to get ready for the city. The city I do not know.

I am from an AZC – a camp – a camp for Asylum Seekers, all away up north. I had to leave, so I got this ticket to go to Amsterdam. I did not know anybody.

This man, he comes in, tells me to leave the room I share with other women. I have to go out. If I am not on time, I will get a warning. I will be kicked out. Expelled for a month.

People, I need help, I am a lesbian, converted to Christianity. I come from an African country. I used to have a fashion store. Now I have nothing. I came here, to seek refuge. I wanted to live in a free country, to live like a Lesbian, openly.

But they did not believe me. The IND immigration officer denied me. I had to leave without my papers, I lost my papers, I don’t have anything, except my story, myself. They don’t believe me, I have to proove I am from ——.

I am doing my best, I have stress. I go to a doctor for that. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I cannot work on it from the street, undergo therapy from the street. All women like me are outside during the day. We wander around. Sometimes people say things I don’t want to hear. I want a normal life. A place for myself.

Bed Bath Bread, that is where I live. I can get in at 4.00 pm and leave 9.00 am. We have go to our rooms at 10.30 in the evening. We have to be awake at 7.oo am. By a loud knock on the door. We live with 65 people, men and women…

Hi, I am your mayor, my name is ‘off the Lane’. Yes, I am busy. But, who’s not, in this field. More than seventy organizations are occupied with refugees out of procedure, undocumented people in Amsterdam. And you, I don’t want you in my city. I want to deal with you behind closed doors. So they nobody can see what we do here. But now we have this lawyer that is buggin’ me. I used to be a lawyer, so I like the fight. If people don’t agree with me on this issue, I see his face in front of me. I see his face in people, speaking during Municipality meetings, citizens of Amsterdam, I see his face, I don’t want to see it. I look on my phone, when they talk their talk. Thinking. I dislike them, they are actors in a bad theater play. Even if they talk about Human Rights, Medical issues, the lack of it. Sickness.


So please take me out of this bad theater play. And no, I did not direct it myself.


But Mayor, you forget that the main actors in this play are now the European court and the Human rights council of the UN.


But Layla, I say to you. Just go back, or to another city, the Hague has some places, I don’t care. Fact is: You are not a citizen of Amsterdam.


Mayor, please Amsterdam is a desert for me, I don’t know anyone.


Then just leave, head to the west. Bye.


theaterplay in the Sandpit. Program Sandberg, Friday 17 June 2016

We Are Here FC article in Folia

Schermafbeelding 2016-06-21 om 10.00.21We Are Here FC. Editorial by Altan Erdogan, Editor in Chief of Folia

(In Dutch)

Terwijl het voetbalminnende deel van Holland zich opmaakt voor een Europees kampioenschap voetbal zonder ‘onze’ Oranjejongens (komende vrijdag is de openingswedstrijd) zijn Yusuf en Mohamed nog steeds op zoek naar een vast trapveldje, hebben ze eigenlijk geen fiets of geld om daar ooit te komen, en is het bij elke training de vraag of er genoeg voetbalschoenen beschikbaar zijn voor iedereen.

Dit is geen slecht geschreven begin van een vlammend pamflet tegen sociale en economische ongelijkheid in de wereld, maar het zijn de feiten anno 2016 in Amsterdam. Redacteur Steffi Weber ging de afgelopen weken kijken bij We Are Here FC, een voetbalteam van uitgeprocedeerde vluchtelingen die al vier jaar van pand naar pand trekken (zie pagina 12). Zonder verblijfstatus, zonder inkomen en zonder iets om naar uit te kijken, behalve dus de potjes voetbal die ze onderling of tegen daklozen en andere zogenoemde have-nots spelen.
Deze zomer krijgt We Are Here FC hulp van de aan de Hogeschool van Amsterdam verbonden Johan Cruyff University, die ze leert hun eigen toernooitjes te organiseren en sponsoren te zoeken.
Gevolg: in juni komen op de kop van het Amsterdamse Java-eiland twee uitersten bij elkaar. Op de tijdelijke FabCity Campus beantwoorden designers, kunstenaars, wetenschappers en duurzaamheidgoeroes al enkele weken vragen over de toekomst van een welvarende maatschappij die zo ongeveer af is. Hoe bak je brood op biogas, wat is de toekomst van baksteen en hoe print je in 3D een onderdeel voor je kekke fiets bijvoorbeeld.
Op zaterdag 18 juni treden op dezelfde plek Mohamed en Yusuf van We Are Here FC aan om te voetballen tegen negentien andere teams. Die dag wordt op het EK voetbal de wedstrijd België-Ierland gespeeld. Leuk hoor, die Zuiderburen, maar ik zou zeggen: op naar het Java-eiland, en ga eens juichen voor buren die officieel niet eens bestaan.

Thank you Steffi, for your article in Folia 30 jaargang 2015 2016 (page 12)


Almost 3 months saying ‘Goodmorning’ at people at the BBB location in Amsterdam. First, I was concerned and curious. What would happen, who would I meet? Could I help with something. How will it develop. It has a touch of art, of absurdity, but it is so neccessary. European law forced the Netherlands to offer these facilities. Cities fill it in their own way. They don’t want people out on the street at night. In Amsterdam have the minimum, how ‘Not-Amsterdam’. You are out on the streets at 9 a.m. – that is the absurdity – and you are on your own. 20 cents for the toilet? NO WAY. Sort it out, other organizations will direct you somewhere. Go to Wereldhuis, have your lunch there. Again in Amsterdam: Tolerance can be seen as Indifference, it’s a weak spot. In Groningen it is organized differently, it’s 24 hours shelter. This helps, to focus on the future.

So, it’s politics, hitting individuals. From macro to micro. Being there every morning is no joke. It is checking how people are doing. It’s connecting different networks in a different way.




At the beach we spoke a few guys from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Swimming and letting their clothes dry at the beach. “We are ten friends”, they said smiling “and we would like to go to Germany or France!” They just registered themselves at the Police Station in Kos City and they will go to Athens later in the week for transfer. Yes, they arrived from Turkey and no, no problems crossing the seven kilometres, the first time they already succeeded! Their trafficker organised their journey and did not go on the rubber boat himself. He waved and said ‘good bye‘ at the Turkish coastline.

“We live in the makeshift shelter, in the vacant hotel.” They pointed towards the unfinished building further inland. I saw the laundry, clothes and towels, drying in the sun. “We paid the human trafficker in Afghanistan.” They looked at each other and back at me: “We are fleeing the Taliban and IS!”

Tourists came our way and gave us the eye. And the refugees? They were clearly still full of adrenalin after their succesful crossing.

At the hotel
The barman talked about it, at least said something, after we asked. There are so many refugees at this time, because of the war. They come from Syria, via Turkey, here’s a safe crossing. Boats are being wrecked, indeed. By who? By the Greek? Then somebody came up and wanted to order a drink. He said “Sorry, I have to go again.” Not very talkative.

Kos City
Mahmoud from Syria and his brother crossed the sea two times and if he knew it was so dangerous he would had never done it. “No,” he said, “The Coast Guard is only concerned with saving lives, both the Turkish and Greek Coast Guard.” And: “Afghans are very naive, they have no idea what they will do here in Kos and in Europe!” According to him they are less focussed as the Syrians, who apparently know what it means to go to Europe.
Mahmoud sympathizes with the Greeks, their life is very difficult, it is a poor country, banks are closed, how do you get your money? Yet they help the refugees. He wants to make a documentary about the situation in Kos. I give him my business card, even though he doesn’t want to go to the Netherlands, you never know if we would meet again.

It is nighttime, we are checking the beaches at 3 am in the morning. We saw lights at sea, frantically going back and forth. Is it the Coast Guard, is it a trafficker, a small boat? My sons Luc and Daniel saw a rubber boat leaving, packed with refugees earlier that evening. On both sides 5 people peddling against the strong current and heavy wind. I would like to talk to the refugees before they go, so we head out to the beaches next to our hotel. It’s so dark and windy at the shore. Just imagine… seven kilometres of water, children on board. Although the trafficker gives you a life vest, what’s the use, can it hold you? The water is cold, deep, dark. We drive to the parking lot next to a restaurant, there are people there. We approach them and tell them about my interest in refugees. It felt a bit (quite) uneasy. How should we behave? The guys work there but they don’t speak English.  With Google Translate we manage. I type: Where do the refugees leave? He types: One beach further. We are going there? I type. He types: I do not want to go there – I do not want to die – you also should not go. He moves and walks away, avoiding further (Google) contact.

Then I realise it’s an area with so many contradictions. Police checking the coastline for refugees and the traffickers taking them to the boats. Locals helping refugees and the allegations of illegal Push Back operations by the Turkish and Greek Authorities. In the daytime I am at the beach, clueless like any tourist. In the night time, they, we, you, me are never safe.

Back in the Hotel I hear the story about a friend of a friend, he wanted to help the refugees and organised a boat to take them to Greece. The boat got run over by another boat and his friend drowned. “Did he ask money for it?” Yes he did. 1000 euros per person. The boat was wrecked. “It was the Greek police!” he said. Or is it by a rivalising trafficker? I don’t know but there are some really awful, heartbreaking stories of people to be found, here at the Turkish coast.

What Design Can Do Blog

Football team of rejected asylum seekers leads the way in design project

Brian Roy to train We Are Here FC

19 May 2015 Published in Social by Bas van Lier

While speakers and attendees are flying in tomorrow for What Design Can Do, another international gathering of a different kind will take place in Amsterdam as well. Wednesday afternoon football international and technical trainer at Ajax Amsterdam Brian Roy will train the We Are Here football team formed by asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. We Are Here FC is part of a more extensive project by designer Annette Kouwenhoven.

The football team, led by Yusuf Adam, recruits players from the We Are Here group of undocumented migrants and rejected asylum seekers who are wandering about Amsterdam for more than two years now. The group inhabited different vacant buildings in the city. Without the possibility to return to their countries of origin the group confidently manifests itself under the We Are Here banner.

Designer Annette Kouwenhoven, currently following a postgraduate course in the System D Academy programme at Sandberg Institute, accompanies We Are Here FC as part of a bigger plan for next year.

‘Next year in May design academies from all around Europe will gather in Amsterdam on the occasion of the European Summit that will be held here,’ she tells. ‘I intend to organize a sports event for the design students and summit participants in which we will invent a new game based on communication. We Are Here FC will play an important role in this, because there is a lot to learn from undocumented migrants when it comes to communication.’

We Are Here FC is sponsored by Wereldhuis, a centre for undocumented people in Amsterdam. The training on Wednesday starts at 14:00 hours at VV Spartaan in Amsterdam West. ‘Anyone who wants to come and support us is more than welcome,’ Kouwenhoven says. ‘We can also use any football shoes or shinguards people want to share. Additional sponsoring is welcome too’, she adds with a grin.