Mihika Mehra (She/ Her)
I am a multidisciplinary designer with a background in architecture and design innovation. This past year at GSA and Glasgow University has helped me expand my understanding of the applicability of design and its intersectionality with other fields. This developed my interest in the application of design in an organisational context, particularly how one can deal with innovation in a business environment.
Having a background in architecture and innovation, I am interested in designing spatial and digital experiences and design research. In the future, I want to explore further the applicability of design in the public sector and problem-solving using design thinking. I believe design is a versatile field that allows one to embrace the ambiguity in the design process of solving relevant social issues and question one’s biases.
In today’s day and age, we live in an extremely polarised political environment, and this is a global phenomenon. We are faced with systemic polarisation in society and social media has had a huge role to play in this, resulting in increasing skepticisms and anxiety amongst todays youth. While initially social media platforms were once heralded by society as a tool to foster greater human connection with instantaneous flow of information, this may no longer be the case. The way these platforms have evolved since their conception has led them to contribute to the political polarisation, violence and discrimination in society (Hua, 2021). It has brought like-minded individuals closer together with just a click of button and also resulted in the widespread circulation of fake news. Even todays news outlets have changed their narrative and delivery, taking cues from this polarised environment.
“When ideological differences harden into identity divides, belonging to one camp or the other becomes not just about voting a certain way or preferring certain specific policies, but also about being a certain type of person with particular social values and belonging to a certain group (Carothers and O’Donohue, 2019).”
Cultural cognition causes people to interpret new evidence in a biased way that reinforces their predispositions. As a result, groups with opposing values often become more polarised, not less, when exposed to scientifically sound information (Kahan, 2010). Some people believe that polarisation and being exposed to contradictory views is good (McConnell, 2021). However, how is it beneficial if we can’t have conversations without it breaking down into an argument and as result don’t understand the other perspective?
My project Poli-Tik explores this tension existing in society and impact it has on social relations. It explores the idea of affective polarisation and tries to find a way to bring a fractured society together by changing the narrative and nature of discourse. It aims to challenge the existing cultural cognition and make people question their beliefs. If we start with this self introspection, maybe we can form a more empathetic society open to understanding the other perspective.
How Might We create conflict resolutions tools to encourage individuals to question their biases, hence resolving polarising debates in different scenarios?”
I based the idea or experience of the workshop on the hypothetical journey informed by my interview insights. The journey began with self-identification of ones biases and ended with collective decision making or compromise. This would result in finding a common ground by allowing them to humanise the issue and focus on the individual instead of the point of contention. The impact or applicability of the concept as I see it is that the cards used in the workshop could be tools for conversation or self-introspection. The workshop could be used for team building or otherwise conflict resolution. To expand the concept further I ideated on a digital prototype to connect stakeholders in the ecosystem and build awareness.The main feature however, is that it allows individuals to create their own cards.
The most important thing I learnt throughout the process was that you start project one point and end at another. I started the project wanting to explore the topic of political polarisation and comedic satire. However, the final solution was based on dialogue and getting individuals to question their biases. Along the way I explored various fields from political theory, psychology to the art of conversation. The journey and thought process is as important as the final solution.
To see the entire process – https://issuu.com/theglasgowschoolofart/docs/ppj_-_mihika
A design-led socio-ecological transition for a sustainable sanitary future.
Award: GSA Sustainability Degree Show Prize 2021 – Highly Commended
We are a team of four concerned citizens who believe in the power of design for envisioning a sustainable sanitary future – Alessandra Pizzuti, Federica Bruschi, Vinishree Solanki and Mihika Mehra.
The local authorities, schools, colleges and public places provide free and easy access to sanitary pads, tampons and reusable pads to whoever needs them. A revolutionary step in itself, it sparked the idea of our team living in Scotland to take the next leap. When Scotland was announced as the first country to address period poverty by making the period products free, the citizens wholeheartedly welcomed this progressive legislation. Therefore, we aim to bring together experts and the citizens of Scotland to start a conversation about sanitary products and provide a platform for encouraging social innovation.
We wanted to extend this access forward to not only period products but to the whole sanitary products domain comprising of baby diapers, adult diapers and period products. A Visionary Hub for collaboration, co-creation and raising awareness while engaging the communities, organisations and government to envision a sustainable sanitary future through innovation and knowledge sharing.
However, we believed that accessibility is only solving a part of the problem, and the major questions it raised was “How might we initiate a sustainable sanitary revolution in Scottish homes and public places to minimize the environmental impact?” and “How is the production and consumption of sanitary products affecting the planet, people and the economies around the world?” Addressing these key concerns to future changemakers, we propose to set up a social innovation hub in Dundee, Scotland. This would be center for experimentation of material, incubation of ideas, workshop space for co designing, a database of scientific and indigenous knowledge, and providing a stage for collaboration.
Impact: Visionary Hub aims for interventions that lead to environmental and social impact, always thinking about the planet and its ecosystem as well as the people and their needs in the social framework. The hub will incubate ideas on bio-degradable solutions for diapers and sanitary pads, accelerating innovation through co-designing with various stakeholders and experts. The goal is to minimise waste generated through sanitary products and develop sustainable waste disposal system.
Raising awareness towards ecofriendly solutions for diapers and pads is crucial as well, and the Hub aims to do that through collaborations with schools, colleges, care homes, gynecologists, pediatricians, healthcare systems and local authorities. Events and workshops will target to educate and spread awareness about reusable and bio-degradable products. The Hub strongly believes in social impact by creating an environment to encourage conversations among communities. It calls for eradicating the taboos existing in society by redefining the preconceived notions within society and highlighting the physical needs of the people.
Creativity & Design: Scotland’s rich biodiversity and natural habitat is already a home to many ecofriendly organizations aiming at preserving the natural resources. Our Visionary Hub takes inspiration from the surrounding Scottish landscape while co-existing with the nature. It aims to create a green architectural space utilising the locally available material and resources. The Hub maintains a digital platform and social media for sharing information about events, a platform for holding virtual talks and dialogues. Another medium of communication for creating awareness is through radio and media, which the Hub extensively uses for its campaigns.
Feasibility: A feasible plan that lays down the process of creating the first of Scotland’s Visionary Hub involves:
– Initial funding through approaching industries supporting social innovation or crowd funding
– Renting co-working spaces
– Collaborating with similar initiatives and enthusiasts
– Developing the website and social media
– Approaching UKRI (UK Research & Innovation – https://www.ukri.org/) for major funding, buying
land in Scotland and building the Hub
– Setup the incubation hub for startups
– Co-creation workshops, events to raise awareness
– Promoting and supporting sustainable companies/ manufacturers
– Exhibiting and sharing the stories and work of individuals
– Increasing access to sustainable products
Scalability: Making Scotland a social innovation leader paving the way for global scalability. The concept is adaptable to different contexts easily as the emphasis is placed on indigenous products and beliefs existing in society. The systems in each country and the situation regarding the availability of sanitary products are different. Scotland is one of the few countries to offer sanitary products for free making it easier to shift focus on purchasing more eco-friendly products. However, in locations where this isn’t possible, and the main problem is the availability of sanitary products, there the primary focus of the hub would be more on education at a grassroots level and then improving access to eco-friendly sanitary products.