Innovator in the Spotlight

Ayda Golahmadi EngD trainee Smart Cities and Buildings

Improving indoor air quality in schools in the Netherlands

My research is focused on improving indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools in the Netherlands as part of the ECOS-IAQ project.

Towards a more inclusive society to raise awareness of basic skills gaps

Towards a more inclusive society to raise awareness of basic skills gaps

In the Netherlands, 2.5 million people struggle daily with reading, writing, math, and digital skills, also called basic skills. These deficiencies make it difficult for them to fully participate in society, such as reading and understanding a letter or buying a train ticket, leading to various personal and societal problems.

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Eindhoven Engine’s initiative

In late 2021, Eindhoven Engine began investigating this issue as part of its mission to accelerate innovation to solve societal challenges. It quickly became clear that this is a wicked problem – a complex issue that is difficult or even impossible to solve due to incomplete or contradictory information in an ever-changing context. This problem, people with a lack of basic skills, is also present in the Brainport region, where the gap between society and people with reduced basic skills is widening. As part of the Brainport region, Eindhoven Engine feels responsible for tackling this problem in collaboration with others, including the Eindhoven Library and the Municipality of Eindhoven.

Fragmented support system

During the exploratory phase, it became apparent that there are many support agencies in our region, but there is no clear overview of these agencies. Moreover, people with reduced basic skills often feel ashamed, which makes them hesitant to seek help. This issue is frequently overlooked, even by social workers, because we are not aware that a lack of basic skills underlies the problems for which they seek help.

Within the Emergence Lab of Eindhoven Engine, TU/e Industrial Design student Inge Hootsmans conducted research during her final master’s project into this issue. She mapped the network of support agencies and discovered that the landscape is highly fragmented, people with reduced basic skills does not know which agency to turn to for their specific needs.

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Ecosystem Eindhoven region

In the Netherlands, support for people lacking basic skills up to 18 years old is accommodated in the educational systems. For those aged 18-40, support is found by people with a background in NT2 (non-native Dutch speakers) as the reach out to the support themselves. People over 40 find it seemingly easier to seek help independently. The group of 18-40-year-olds with an NT1 (native Dutch speakers) appears to be the most difficult to reach. Therefore, Inge chose to concentrate on this group in her research.

Bridge Builders game

To help this group navigate the complex and scattered landscape of support agencies, Inge developed the Bridge Builders game that is designed to raise awareness of basic skills and consist of three steps (see illustration and photos below). The participant starts with experiencing what it is like to have a lack of basic skills. He/she needs to individually find and visualize action points in a letter. Then, step two, the participant will experience what it feels like to seek help in a scattered help landscape: participants need to find a right help institution for their letter. Step three is ‘Take action’. Increasing awareness of the complex societal problem and providing positive incentives to act together: participants are encouraged to reflect critically on their own role in this complex society and take away personal action points directly applicable in their daily and professional life.

3 steps of Bridge Builders game

Creating a more inclusive society

Inge extensively tested the Bridge Builders game at events such as the Festival of Disruption in 2023, a thematic session in April 2024, and the High Tech Campus day in June 2024. The letters have also been distributed and used as a trigger in presentations and talks within multiple networks. The responses to the tool were overwhelmingly positive. It allows you to briefly feel the challenges faced by those with reading difficulties.

Together with a team Inge is currently developing the workshop further to raise awareness and get to action among professionals and within their companies, with a call to become a bridgebuilder of an inclusive society by bridging the gap between society and people with a lack of basic skills.

Become a bridgebuilder of an inclusive society by bridging the gap between society and people with a lack of basic skills.

Inge Hootsmans
Junior Social Designer | Eindhoven Engine

More Information

If you would like to know more or get in touch regarding the Bridge Builders game and/or an inclusive society, please email Inge Hootsmans (Junior Social Designer Inclusive Society) or Merel Notten (Project Leader Inclusive Society). Together, we can work towards a more inclusive society!

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