Creative Collaboration in Amman
Jordan has one of the youngest populations in the world, with almost 75% of the population under 30, and almost half of that population living in a single city, Amman. What if these young people were empowered to make their cities sustainable, beautiful places to live?
This pilot project for My Mark: My City was created and led by Jordanian creative Zain Tarawneh. Zain noted that many young Jordanians “have strong doubts for what their futures hold”, and it was this tendency that we wanted to challenge. The project we designed engaged high school and university students with the issue of climate change, and aimed to galvanise and equip them to take action to tackle it.
Breaking Down Barriers
Zain wanted this programme to “break barriers and be unconventional, while taking a contextualised and localised approach to sustainability in Amman”. She gathered a range of experts from fields that would otherwise rarely meet: architecture, cultural heritage, film, visual art, design, and the culinary arts. Over three days, a series of workshops and activities helped convert the environmental interest of a group of young Jordanians into a practical understanding that would help them plan how to improve their city.
This inter-industry approach was initially hard for the students to see. As Rawand, an architecture student at Jordan University, noted, “on the first day, I didn't really get… how the environment was connected to museums, and to climate change, until I began learning from my peers about their fields and realised how everything can be connected. It’s time to think about climate change creatively and imaginatively”.
The students travelled to different communities across Amman, learning how contrasting disciplines might be applied to sustainable city design. Through conversation and creative practice, they imagined how they could play a role in transforming their city – from storytelling and place-making initiatives to sustainable business. With Jordanian filmmakers at Sira films, students learnt about how to make short films and storytelling from behind the camera; with computer game designers at Maysalward they learnt how to use storytelling and gamification to drive engagement; with architectural research studio Studio X Amman, the students learnt about water urbanism; and with cultural non-profit Turquoise Mountain, they learnt how Jordanian cultural heritage can inform and drive contemporary sustainable approaches. The workshops took place at creative community centres Manara Arts and Culture and Urdon Shop.
Turning Ideas Into Reality
At the end of the three days, the students “pitched” their ideas for how they could make Amman more sustainable to a panel of judges. Museum for the United Nations – UN Live is now supporting the winning students over three months as they attempt to make their ideas a reality. One of the first projects is a sustainable roof garden in Amman, created and looked after by the students.
For Zain, the project was all about breaking down barriers “one conversation at a time”. The programme paired people across different universities, industries, areas, and generations, and asked them to collaborate on solutions to shared problems.
While the project was only designed for small numbers of students, other schools and universities in Jordan are already asking for the programme to be replicated. Imagine the impact if it could be scaled across the whole of the country.