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View from Belgium Ambassador's home.

View from Belgium Ambassador's home.
Day 1 has been about understanding the full implications of the GMF program

We had an orientation, led by GMF president Craig Kennedy and AMMF program officer Neil Sumilas,emphasized how we are part of a larger community. I got a great sense of how special the program is within all the work GMF does. As Craig stated,"it is their investment in the future". They want us to get involved with many areas of their programming. This excites me,because they're doing amazing things.

The other emphasis was on the fact that we are ambassadors to the program, the US, our organizations, and ourselves. There was lots of tips about appropriate behavior. Tomorrow we will get tips on travelling as people of color. Of the 19 participants, 6 of us are people of color.

The motto is to be flexible and have a good sense of humor, which most of us all seem to have.

Dinner was lovely. I sat next to the Ambassador's brother who was visiting. The Ambassador told us 3 things about Belgium and 3 about Europe. 1 Belgium is proud of its history, which is one of being invaded and occupied by its neighbors. 2 It believes in its cradle to grave welfare state. Welfare is not a dirty word. 3 It is proud of its diversity, where 50% of inhabitants are foreigners.

Craig brought up an important point about understanding Europe. It's population is shrinking. So much of what Europe has been able to do is because they have the money to do it. How does that change when the majority of their budget has to go to paying pensions.

From a design perspective, how does that affect communications, environments, and ergonomic products for either aged people or people who don't speak French, Dutch, or German? The US has now included plain language requirements as part of the paperwork reduction act. Will I find the same?

Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall, PhD +1 312.282.2893

Off to Europe tomorrow

So tomorrow I leave for Europe. I'm excited and have packed lightly. I have my new PDA phone, PC tablet (since the phone is not compatible with Mac), and iPod shuffle (to store digital interview recordings mostly).

Feel free to follow along virtual the trip. Postings will be mostly image-based as I will not have time for "Epic Email-like" mini-essays.

Note that this will not be an ethnographic adventure. Its impossible to do ethnography over a period of 3-days when you don't speak the languages. The emphasis for me is of course on not speaking the language. But the trip will be interesting and exciting. We shall hopefully learn alot about design, national policy, and civic participation across the Atlantic.

If I have time, I will post excerpts from an interview I did last Thursday with Ric Grefe, excutive director of AIGA, of which Design for Democracy is a strategic program. It was really inspiring for me because it seals for me AIGA as my organizational home, which is quite a change from 3 years ago when I had not joined because "I don't belong there." Thanks Ric.

Here is my itinerary:

June 1-2         Washington DC
Highlight: Dinner at the home of Belgian Ambassador, Baroness van Daele

June 03 -06          Brastislava, Slovakia
Highlights: trip to Devin Castle; briefing with Michal Kovac, former President of Slovak Republic (1993-1998); briefing with Olga Gyarfasova, Program Director of Institute for Public Affairs (she is a sociologist, researcher, and analyst); and Jozef Slovak, filmmaker.

June 07-11           Hamburg, Germany
Highlights: appointment with Prof. Welfard Kraiker in Communications Design at Hamburg University for Applied Sciences   

June 12-15           Bilbao, Spain
Highlights: tour of Guggenheim by Geary, meetings with representatives of Basque political parties, visit to Basque Cultural Association, interview at Bai- agencia da innovacion

June 16-20            Craccow/Warsaw, Poland
Highlights: tour of Cracow old town and castles, meeting with Anna Maria Orla-Bukowska, a social anthropologist; tour of Auschwitz

June 21-25            Brussels, Belgium
Highlights: meeting with members of European Parliament, briefings at NATO

So as you see, this is going to be an enlightening trip.