The CO●LAB network initiative aims to explore the poten­tial for disseminating co-design and livinglab-based research and methodologies in Japan. In Denmark there is a strong research base and substantial industrial and public experience in co-design, participatory design, and livinglab-based approaches to design of ICT-based services and solutions. Livinglab-based approaches have created interest as a methodological approach among ICT and design researchers in academic environments as well as in governmental institutions in Japan. Public and private services in the ageing area has been pointed out as interesting application areas. Tokyo University of the Arts is establishing the first Japanese School of Design, together with the National Institute of Technology and the Ministry of Economy. The school will be based on a strong research environ­ment focusing on participatory and co-design oriented theory and methodologies.

While there has been interest in participatory design and co-design methods from Japanese industry, no Japanese universities have established design or ICT programs focusing on such approaches. There is also interest in Scandinavian welfare models among governmental institu­tions in Japan; e.g. in the White Paper: “Informa­tion and Communications in Japan, 2014” (issued by Mini­stry of Internal Affairs and Communications). This includes interest in how citizens can be engaged in e.g. innovations in senior communities and housing. Japa­nese industry has also shown interest in livinglab ap­proaches and social innovation for senior citizens: e.g. Toshiba Health Care, Hitachi, Sony, NTT Docomo, Tmsuk.

Co-design methods are originally grounded in Scandina­vian democratic design approaches. The main questions explored in the CO●LAB initiative are:

How can Scandinavian co-design approaches be adapted and applied in Japanese settings with political, societal, cultural and business traditions differing much from Scandinavian settings; and

How can this initiative strengthen Danish methodological awareness by adding a new cultural perspective and chal­lenges to our understanding of the potentials of participa­tory methods.

CO●LAB workshop 29 September in Tokyo

The CO●LAB initiative hosted a workshop at Tokyo University of the Arts to explore how co-design experience and methodologies from Danish research environments and projects can ‘travel’ to Japanese research environments, and industrial and public settings in productive ways. The CO●LAB workshop brought together Japanese companies, public partners, NGOs and researchers interested in learning about and applying co-design methods and livinglab-based approaches in the area of welfare innovation. The co-design group from the IT University of Copenhagen organised and facilitated the workshop. During the workshop we demonstrated how the Danish co-design team has applied co-design and livinglab-based approaches in major Danish and European projects in the area of social welfare innovation and design for ageing.

The workshop used a real case related to ageing and everyday sharing Japan, and gave participants p4n1a4188ossibilities of trying out co-design methods on the selected case. We finalised the workshop by discussing possibilities and challenges when transferring co-design oriented innovation methods from Denmark to Japan. Discussions about opportunities for future collaboration between Japan and Denmark are being continued among participants from the workshop.

See a visual presentation of how we prepared the Japanese ageing case prior to the workshop and how we worked with the case during the workshop here.

Want to know more? You can contact us here:

Takeshi Sunaga, Professor, Ph.D.
Tokyo University of the Arts

Lone Malmborg, Associate Professor, Ph.D.
IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark