A soap story

The background of the Story

The soap story, Köpüköpük (Bubble Bubble), is the practical research of a master thesis. It is a thesis which is rooted from discourses such as ‘sustainable localization’, ‘slow living’, ‘management of community power’ etc. It is a thesis that aims to support the idea that women are a major group critically important to achieving sustainable development.
With this background, in Turkey, 2011, an experimental design project is held between a local women community and a design researcher with the motivation of supporting women’s production by consulting strategic / communication design for the creation of more sustainable product/service solutions while creating a new operational area for the designer.

How the Story Began
The story has begun with the field trip to Cittaslow Seferihisar in search of a community for a collaborative design project. The reason why this county is particularly selected for such research is that, with the subscription to Cittaslow Network, in a short while the local government and community engaged to act for the change towards sustainability, the slow philosophy has been highly internalized by the citizens and especially local women are encouraged to participate in local bazaars as producers with items of domestic production such as local homemade food products and handcrafts for the benefit of their social equity and local economy as well (Figure 1).

However, the research outcomes exposed a gap in the existing situation; while some women producers had strong product concepts that were offering sustainable product solutions such as non-toxic cotton villager baby dolls or objects/accessories made out of re-used materials, a major part of the women that were producing ordinary knitting and sewing-works were lacking product innovation to offer sustainable and profitable solutions. Following this outcome, an agreement for a design collaboration has been done with Ulamış Woman Labor House as a facility where women come together to produce and improve their skills and can benefit from such design collaboration.

The Story

Köpüköpük is a product-service system design idea, created during the workshops held with Ulamış Woman Labor House with the aim of finding innovative product/service ideas that are sustainable and profitable. Briefly, the idea aims at diffusing the use of local liquid olive oil soap that will be produced by the local women and consumed by the local community in public places such as schools, government buildings etc. The main objectives of the proposed idea are;

• Empowering the local women community for sustainable local production.
• Using local olive oil resources efficiently for local needs.
• Creating awareness against the harmful effects of mainstream cleaning products in the society.

The Process
To reach the idea Köpüköpük, five workshops have been held with the woman labor house (Figure 2). The first meeting, Workshop 0, has been a step for the integration to the community. With this aim, the meeting has been held with a sincere attitude that even the religious ceremony that they repeat on Fridays has been participated. Later, the abilities and capabilities of the women for production have been discussed, it is discovered that a workshop for the production of natural olive oil soap has already been held by the government. Accordingly, natural olive oil soap with its strong link to sustainability and its relation to local resources has been decided as the product to be worked on.

The next two workshops have been held for the development of product concepts. At this stage, product concepts have been generated by sharing ideas and the most promising four concepts have been visualized by the designer (Figure 3). The details of the product concepts and their evaluation regarding social and environmental sustainability concerns can be found in Figure 4.
After the decision for the final product concept, the last two workshops have been held for the experimentation of the product.

The Design Plan
Firstly, the product that is offered in Köpüköpük product-service system is the liquefied version of natural olive oil soap (Figure 5). The motivation to liquefy the product is the common use of liquid soap in public areas. The technique being used for the liquefaction is that the solid soaps which are produced by women beforehand are being grinded, water is being added and the mixture is being left for homogenization for a night.

To continue with the consumption scenario, the product reaches the user in the lavatories of public area and the soap dispenser is the medium to deliver the message of the project (Figure 6). The stickers on dispensers are used to highlight the labor of local women and the need for the use of non-toxic cleaning alternatives. Here, an alternative design for the soap dispenser has not been developed with the aim of proposing a more feasible solution to the local government.

As the story is a product-service idea, inside the content of the thesis, the design plan is constructed with the tools of product-system design, such as system map, interaction storyboard board and stakeholders motivation matrix. However, here only the interaction storyboard will be presented to depict the system in a horizontal timeline. In the storyboard, the roles of the actors for the implementation of the system are explained (Figure 7).

To conclude, the story as an example of the collaborative design approach between a local women community and designer can create the background for a further study that focuses on the management of the local women community power. In that sense, such studies on the labour force of local women communities can be contributory for developing local economies especially in low in-come contexts where social equity has to be provided, while leading to generation of eco-efficient products/service solutions to local problems.

Eda KÖSE, MDes, İzmir University of Economics
Asst. Prof. Dr. Mine OVACIK DÖRTBAŞ, Izmir University of Economics

About the author(s):

edakose@yahoo.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *