Olivia Sharkey (She/Her)
I am a multi-disciplinary designer devoted to incorporating positive social change into my practice. I am invested in working in collaborative and participatory design, using human-centred design thinking and conducting ethnographic, qualitative research. I care about creating spaces of belonging, where people can be heard, foster their creative thinking, and gain mutual benefit from engagement. I strive to create thoughtful, accessible, and ethical design outcomes.
A strategic plan roadmapping Glasgow’s future landscape of belonging
Loneliness is a growing, complex, and detrimental issue. Amongst young adults, the amount of those impacted has been rising beyond other demographics, especially due to Covid isolation periods. Loneliness can negatively influence a young person’s social skills, ability to build relationships, and mental and physical health at a formative stage, causing lifelong repercussions. Despite this, much of the research and support that exists is geared towards the elderly population.
Following an assets-based approach, I collaborated with supporters to explore how current support can be revitalised, better connected, and adapted in order to work towards a person-led, accessible, and destigmatised socially inclusive future. We designed a roadmap that reinvigorates and connects the present support system, then introduces Aye Belong, a loneliness focused organisation into the network, and finally evolves to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and incorporate young adults into the landscape.
“If I can ask something of you then, Olivia. With the younger people that we’re supporting – that’s a big learning exercise for us now. We’re trying everything. If you’ve got any ideas of something that you think might help us identify that younger person that needs support, please let me know. The younger people are being just left to carry on. You can see it in the stats. You can see the mental health need for the younger people its just gone up so fast and sadly suicide and all this type of thing have really, really gone up. So that’s why I’m saying, if you’ve got anything that you can share with us, that can help us help people. Please do.”
– People Like Us Coordinator
This speculative project originated from my own experiences with the subject of fertility and reproduction feeling inescapable. Throughout my life, the woman around me and I have discussed the impact and complexity of reproduction. I have noticed that there are both universal and individual aspects, with power in shared fears, hopes, experiences, pains, and thoughts but also some division amongst the differences women experience. I found it was important to acknowledge and work with my own personal influences as it helped the entire project feel more natural and authentic and created a safe space for everyone to participate more equally.
In order to gather some more in-depth, qualitative data about people’s experiences, I conducted interviews about the significant events and ideas that had directly affected their lives so far. The focus of these discussions was specifically the emotional impact, which I then visualised through mapping. My goal was to take these complex situations and turn them into a more visually comprehensive format so that they could be more accessible for discussion and insight.
I took my research forward into conducting a workshop with participants in their 20-30s from a range of different countries and cultures. The workshop began with everyone sharing their thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and stories around the subject, as I wanted to gather an initial un-biased understanding of what aspects came to them first. From there, I gave them a range of prompts to ruminate on, as this was a topic that they had only just been exposed to. The contributions for this stage were more varied and allowed people space to immerse themselves more in the topic.
Once the participants had taken the time to reflect upon their own experiences, I divided them into three groups to speculate on different fictional fertility scenarios;
1. External Wombs
2. There Is No “Biological Clock”
3. Anyone Can Get Pregnant
As the scope of speculation was so wide, I also provided them with three main questions to consider;
1. How would this change things? (Compared to what we had considered in our reality)
2. What would this look like?
3. What services would you want or need?
By exploring this topic in the fictitious realm, discussion was able to begin around what participants unveiled as their true interests, desires, and concerns. Some key areas that they examined were creating more freedom for women, moving into a world beyond a gender binary, having more control over adapting one’s biology, and a societal culture shift.
From there I was able to create some speculative illustrations that could further promote discourse and potential reveal the most pressing needs of young adults around fertility and reproduction.
I found there was a lot of power in this topic and how the reflection and discussion around it could impact those involved. A lot of the initial response was enjoyment and fun, which allowed more lighthearted, free contribution. Beyond that, many female participants expressed how empowered they felt, and how the process had been fairly therapeutic as it was a rare chance for their pains to be heard. I also found male participants saying that they were considering ideas that they had not previously and were therefore recognising the depth and influence to a new degree. Through co-design and speculation, everyone involved was able to gain more perspective and expand their own relationship with the subject of fertility of reproduction.
Police Scotland – Case Updater
In response to our brief exploring the role of a modern Scottish police service, our group investigated the process a victim undertakes after reporting a crime.We created a Police Scotland case updater; an online service to be provided by Police Scotland to support victims. Here they would be able to find updates on their existing cases, guides and examples from previous cases, and support resources. They could also use this platform to get in touch with their investigating officer, ask questions, or provide feedback. Our aim being to improve the experience, knowledge, and autonomy of a victim in a vulnerable situation, the budget and efficiency of Police Scotland, and the trust, confidence, and relationship between the two.