Wina Smeenk

Designer, researcher and innovation strategist Wina Smeenk is Professor Societal Impact Design, as well as being right at the centre of practice with her own co-design bureau, ‘WiEN’s ontwerperschap’. The methods for empathic co-design devised by Wina are deployed in the lab as way to creating social value: ‘This is what we call human-centered innovation. Together with our lab partners, we explore the potential contribution of tourism and leisure to a better life in a more inclusive city’.

‘Every resident is a tourist or leisure-seeker and vice versa’

5 questions for Wina…

What is your educational background?
I studied Industrial Design at the Technical University of Delft and have specialised in Innovation Management and User-centred Design. As an innovation strategist and designer, I have worked for companies such as Giant Bicycles, Sony and PlayStation. In 2019 I completed my PhD thesis Navigating empathy, empathic formation in co-design processes. And since 2010 I have been running ‘Wien’s ontwerperschap’, my own co-design bureau.

What do you contribute to the lab as a learning community?
I do my best to enthuse and inspire the team to deploy their full potential. I am also creative, and I try to go beyond language-based communication and to fuel discussions using creative tools such as Miro, role-playing games, empathic movies, 3D models and anything else that comes to mind. And I am idealistic. You might think that your impact as a single person is very limited, but on the contrary, I believe that many small things taken together can lead to major changes. That it is what I am trying to pursue, and I am also engaged in projects related to dementia and mourning, among other things, not just tourism, leisure and events. This is also to do with my personal experience. Just to give an example, I have developed a ‘Dementia simulator’. In addition, I have a lot of experience of educational reform, both at university and college level.

What is your favourite spot in Amsterdam-North?FC Hyena: an organic wine bar and cinema with relaxing sofas. You can even take your food and drink into the auditorium, where they feature Hollywood films as well as classic movies. In addition to being experimental, Amsterdam-North is also a city quarter in transition, which is something I like.

Finish this sentence: for me, leisure and recreation mean…
freedom, days off, going out with my family, relaxing. Things are more difficult now but there are still possibilities; you just have to be more creative.

What factors do you think are key for the positive development of the tourism, recreation and events industries?
I think it is important to show understanding for all parties: residents, visitors, entrepreneurs, authorities etc. We need to realise that tourism is a ‘wicked problem’; the issue is not just the visitor. Tourism is much more of a systemic problem than many people realise, so we have to create more awareness of that. This also means that the solution lies with multiple parties. A resident could show more empathy for a visitor, and vice versa. In traditional education, we often go from A to B, following the assignment of a single principal, but this not the way to change a system; everyone must accept and share responsibility. Just to give an example, if we want ‘fair tourism’, then entrepreneurs must drive electric cars. Everyone can and must assume responsibility for their own actions!

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