Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘social integration

Should my personal experience be generalized?

Is lack of taste for luxury sufficient an enough factor to draw conclusion for lacking artistic evaluation?

Since a child and throughout my upbringing I didn’t receive any weekly stipend, and never asked for one. I just relied on Christmas and Easter occasions to get the ritual cash gifts.

It was my responsibility to arrange that whatever cash I received to stretch an entire year.

Though my parents were very well off compared to my relatives, I felt poor to indulge on luxury consumer goods.

Actually, I don’t recall having noticed any change in the clothing of the students or whatever could now be considered peer pressures in resembling to one another.

I relied on my mother fashion style (a great fashionable seamster) to select my clothing, shoes, corrective eye glasses… As long as they fit, and were functional then there were no problems.

I never was invited to participate in the selection of my gifts and outfits.

I think even my younger sister did Not set a trend to pressure my mother and father to re-evaluate their behavior toward the “rights'”of their children to have a small say in what they purchase for them.

I wonder if the new generations accept Not to participate in their appreciation of the gifts.

I have been wondering why my appreciation of artistic creativity is to be desired?

Is it lack of appreciation and discrimination on the quality and luxury of consumer products, or simply my lack of interest in observing changes around me?

Kind of basically lacking social integration and association?

An introvert type who loved to read novels as soon he came home from school?

Anyway, it Not sufficient to lack luxury initiation in order to lack artistic appreciation, and vice versa. Though it is necessary for talented evaluators.


I have been meaning to share this for some time now, and International Women’s Day was the perfect nudge for me to just get to it!

In a nutshell, we have started a Design Leadership Lean In Circle at Uscreates back in September of last year. What is a Lean In Circle you ask?

“Lean In Circles are small groups who meet regularly to learn and grow together, and they’re changing lives. Women are asking for more, stepping outside their comfort zones, and leaning in.”

The movement was started by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg following the success of her book Lean In, which challenges and encourages women to lead in their careers, and men to support them to do that.

A few of us at Uscreates have read the book, got angry about the gender gap numbers, got inspired by some of the stories shared, felt motivated by some of the advice, and disagreed with some of the other advice.

I know that Sheryl, her book, and the movement have received their fair share of criticism – probably most notably here. But debating the strengths and shortcoming of the book and the movement is not quite the topic of this blog – although I do quite enjoy these sorts of debates.

The reality is that it’s the 21st century, the gender gap in (design) leadership is still there, and we all need to do something about this, and as a design business, we certainly do too.

For example last year Uscreates, alongside the Point People and the RSA, brought together women pioneers in service design to tell their story of how they essentially created a service design industry from scratch.


Industry: 70% of design students are female but only 40% of professional designers are female


Pay: 47 years after the Equal Pay Act, women are still 18% behind men on pay


Leadership: Only 23% of board seats in the UK are held by women.


Design leadership: In design businesses, only 3% of board seats are held by women.


Design leadership: Only 11% of design business leaders are female.

The success of Sandberg’s book inspired her to start a movement called  ‘Lean In Circles’.

These circles are essentially small groups of people, predominantly women, that meet regularly to learn and grow together with the help of free education materials, expert advice, discussion guides, and more. They are designed to help women ask for more in their careers, step out of their comfort zone and of course ‘lean in’.

Therefore, a Design Leadership Lean In Circle gives us a simple, no fuss way to apply our energies and passions to get stuff done. But because we understand systems at Uscreates, we know that the stuff that needs to get done needs to happen at the level of:

  • The individual (motivation, efficacy, resilience, capability building)
  • The design business – a culture and internal policies that encourage and enable women to achieve full potential
  • The design industry – collaborating to address joint challenges, making joint commitments and taking joint action
  • Policy – fully assessing the impact of every policy – whether intended or not – on gender equality in leadership

So as we got together at Uscreates to shape what we wanted to do, why we wanted to do it, and who we needed to involve, our thinking evolved into Lean In Ripple Circles for Design Leadership to address the dimensions of the challenge at different levels of the system: the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle, and the Open Circle.

Here’s a quick sketch of our early thinking. We know these are ambitions ideas, and we’re not quite there yet, but here is where we are up to, what we plan on doing next, and what we dream of doing one day.

image: sketch Lean In Circle for Design Leadership
Uscreates’ sketching out Lean In Circle for Design Leadership

What we are doing now; the Design Leadership Inner Circle

This circle is for us – all the people of Uscreates, internalising the revolution.

The gender gap is less of an issue here. We are a predominantly women-led business, and happen to have mostly women in our great team.

We (across the gender spectrum) want to support ourselves and one another to achieve our fullest potential. A few of us have been meeting once a month over lunch, to share our individual goals and support one another to get that one step closer to achieving them.

Different team members have different goals such as: doing a TED talk, being more confident in meetings, balancing work with work, balancing work with life, getting better at saying ‘yes’, taking a career shift.

It’s been wonderful coming together and leveraging the assets of the circle to offer one another tips, link each other up with things to look at or people to meet to help us all get to where we hope to be.

What we will be doing next; the Design Leadership Outer Circle

This circle is for us – all the people of Uscreates – and our friends.

Friends who have similar goals to some members of our team so we can work together to get there. Or friends who have achieved these goals in the past, we want to learn about your journeys, what the challenges were and what kept you going.

This will take the shape of an informal get together around a breakfast or perhaps some after work drinks. We’ll lay out our goals to discuss, challenge and inspire one another, and open the right doors to take that next step.

If you’re interested or have achieved any of the goals we shared up there in the Inner Circle, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch ( and we’ll let you know when the first Outer Circle is taking place!

What we dream of doing; the Design Leadership Open Circle

This circle is for everyone in the design industry, externalising the revolution. We want to shake and disrupt. We’ll start this with hacks every now and then, bringing together systemic players – movements, designers and design leaders, employers, educators, recruiters, and policy makers.

Each hack will focus on a systemic challenge – closing the pay gap, supporting men to be able to lean into their families, equal parental leave pay, supporting women to find good mentors, and so on.

There are so many wonderful people and movements doing so much already in this space, and we have SO much respect for them: Kerning the GapAda’s ListHidden Women of Design, and #upfront to name only a few.

We have spoken to some of them who were excited by this, and we want to speak to more. We want to make this happen as a force – not as Uscreates. So do get in touch ( if you want to help make this a reality!

Stay tuned. We will share learning and progress as we embark on this exciting and purpose-driven journey.

This blog was written by Dr. Joanna Choukeir


Dr Joanna Choukeir Design Director

As Design Director at Uscreates, Joanna’s role is to develop design talent and embed people-centred design across health and wellbeing campaigns, products, services, systems and policies. Joanna is a renowned researcher, speaker and lecturer on social design with 13 years’ experience gained in the UK and internationally across multiple sectors.

She has worked with clients such as Nesta, NHS England, Policy Lab, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and charities, to help them achieve transformational and sustainable change through design.

Joanna has also completed a PhD in design for social integration at the University of the Arts London.


New tools for changing behaviour? Like digital platforms?

Joanna Choukeir is a social design practitioner, researcher, speaker and lecturer with a decade of experience in the UK and Lebanon.
She is the Design and Communication Director at Uscreates, a London-based strategic consultancy pioneering innovative work to help organisations maximise their social value. Joanna has recently completed a PhD, researching and developing communication design methods to enhance social integration in post-conflict communities.

Using digital tools to change behaviour

Joanna Choukeir

How can you use online user experience to change behaviours in the physical world?

MyFitnessPal is an excellent sample of using an online experience to change offline behaviour – specifically around health and fitness. User experience is not just a digital thing – it’s any interaction with a company, service and product.

Buying fish and chips is a user experience. Successful UX is when they have a positive, streamlined and successful interaction with a service.

The future is digital. And it’s mobile – mobile is being used twice as much as PCs, and is the only media type growing.

Unilver has suggested that sustainable change will have to come across society, not just government or corporates.

There’s widespread interest in using behaviour change to improve our life experiences. Using online tools to do that means you can review and iterate.

You can measure change – if the app is logging changes, you get that hard feedback.

We’re not connecting these disciplines as much as we should.

A quick search of Google News turns up headlines taking about how much behaviour change apps are failing to do that. Searches for behaviour change have been consistent for nearly a decade.

UX design is rising rapidly, and user experience is higher than both and still growing.

How do we connect the dots?

Operant conditioning – the carrot and the stick

The Walk is an app, which plays you an audio thriller as you walk, and requires you to walk a number of steps to unlock the next episode. Zombies Run does the same thing, but you have a stick behind you – the zombies…


Kitten gives you a kitten photo if you hit your word count for the day. On the stick side you have Write or Die, which starts deleting words if you stop writing for set intervals.

Social cognitive theory

How much ability do we have to manage ourselves and our productivity?

There’s an app called Freedom that will block the internet on your computer for a while. SelfControl allows you to blacklist websites you want to avoid.

Theory of reasoned action

We evaluate the benefit or harm of actions to us, and we consider social pressure in that. BetterMe shames you on social media for failing to meet a task.

Theory of planned behaviour

If you want to change, you need the intention and a plan.

Unfuck Your Habitat allows you to plan and focus your efforts in cleaning your home.

Trainaway helps your reduce your carbon footprint, by concentrating on enjoying the journey, not just the destination. It helps you plan stopover points and things to do there.

Social learning theory

We observe and model behaviour based on what we see around us.

The Wheel of Well-being is built on the idea that people respond to tips given by others, because they know they work.

Social ecological model

We’re influenced by individual, environment and interpersonal factors. The Wheel of Well-being gives tips and activities contexts to harness this effect.

Trans-theoretical model for behaviour changes

Behaviour change is complicated – you need to have the idea, think about it, prepare for it, act on it and then maintain that change. It’s hard.

Most digital product focus on preparation and maintenance stages.

Can we move into the pre-contemplation stage, to give people the idea for change?

How you become a Peace Activist in Lebanon

Aisha Habli posted this January 18, 2014

Why I Became a Peace Activist

Beirut – 9:40 AM, I wake to my phone ringing and mistake it for an alarm. My sister anxiously asks me where I am, and I guiltily reply that I’ve slept in. “I’m just calling to ask you if you heard the explosion,” she says.
As I’m talking to her, I hear a helicopter fly close by, followed by sirens from speeding vehicles. I had an errand this morning in Downtown Beirut, and the site of the explosion was on my walking route. This situation has become eerily familiar.
Aisha Habli and fellow activists organize youth activities to tackle issues of identity and segregation in Lebanon. Photo credit: Joanna Choukeir, July 2012.

Aisha Habli and fellow activists organize youth activities to tackle issues of identity and segregation in Lebanon. Photo credit: Joanna Choukeir, July 2012. (One of the girls looks like Lynn or Lin)

On the last Friday of 2013, an explosion hit Lebanon’s busy capital Beirut, killing 6 civilians, injuring 45 others, and assassinating Mohammad Chatah, former Finance Minister and senior advisor to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The bombing was only a short distance from the site of the car bomb that targeted former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and marked the beginning of a series of car bombings and assassinations that have been occurring regularly ever since.

All Lebanese political parties have been targets of such terrorist acts. The beginning of 2014 has already seen yet another car bombing in the southern suburb of Dahieh, and a historic library in the northern city of Tripoli was torched damaging thousands of books and manuscripts.

In times like these, I am reminded of why I am a social and peace activist. Things are not well in Lebanon or the region, and until we change our mentalities, things won’t change anytime soon.

Aisha records reflections from youth who participated in social integration activities. Photo credit: ??, July 2012.

Aisha records reflections from youth on social integration. Photo credit: Hanane Kai, July 2012.

I grew up in multicultural communities in Saudi Arabia and moved to Lebanon in 2007 to pursue my higher education. I was fascinated by the Lebanese hospitality and generosity.

To my disappointment I have lately noticed an increasingly polarized community—one where your name, hometown, religion, and political affiliation define you.

Because of these labels, I am sometimes offered special privileges and, at other times, treated with distrust, both equally frustrating.

I have even been turned down for a job that I was qualified for because of my name, Aisha, which was the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s favorite wife, who played a large part in the conflict that later divided Muslims into Sunnis and Shiites.(She got involved in and led the first civil war in the battle of “The Camel” against the troops of Calif  Ali who were ironically Sunnis (followers of the power to be)

In the interviewer’s words, with a name like Aisha, I would “cause a loss in the company’s market and could only work in select regions based on their religious and political associations.”

Refusing to tolerate this as the norm, I wanted to get to know the people of my country in person, rather than rely on the media outlets and adopt the prejudices around me.

I sought out communities where people of various Lebanese backgrounds engaged in dialogue, exchanged ideas, and pursued reform and innovation.

The people I met were hopeful and inspiring. Soon enough, I became a social and peace activist, eager to improve my community through projects that encourage dialogue and break down social barriers.

‘Imaginers’ share their passion for Imagination Studio. Video by Joanna Choukeir.

In 2011, I joined Imagination Studio, a co-creation project that aimed to tackle the leading social integration barriers facing Lebanese youth, including religious sects, political affiliation, poor mobility between regions, and media influence. We organized workshops to analyze these ‘barriers’ and designed activities to bring together youth in public spaces across Lebanon.

Today, the research methodology used for Imagination Studio is being developed as a guideline to support worldwide organizations in using social design to tackle social segregation.

I have also volunteered as an organizer at TEDxBeirut. The success of the TEDx communities in Lebanon comes from the networking opportunities they provide to individuals of various backgrounds. The events cultivate dialogue on a variety of issues including education, healthcare, technology, design, entertainment, and entrepreneurship.

Walkabout Drum Circle entertaining the crowd with interactive drumming from West African origins at the TEDxBeirut event. Photo credit: ??, May 2012.

Walkabout Drum Circle entertains the TEDxBeirut crowd with West African, interactive drumming. Photo credit: Nadim Kamel, May 2012.

Once a week, I participate as a mentor for The Nawaya Network. As one of the first mentorship programs for disadvantaged youth in Lebanon and the Arab world, it aims to create a positive and nurturing environment that allows youth to discover their hidden potential.

My other passion is peace activism. I am the local and international outreach coordinator at the Media Association for Peace, an organization based in Lebanon that trains media practitioners in peace journalism techniques and promotes the implementation of peace journalism.

MAP members celebrating the International Day of Peace with MasterPeace, a movement inspiring peace through arts and education, at a monastery in the Lebanese mountains. Photo credit: ??, September 2012.

Media Association for Peace members celebrate the International Day of Peace. Photo credit: Mostapha Raad, September 2012.

The concept behind peace journalism, also known as conflict-sensitive journalism, is to report news from an unbiased standpoint. It gives equal value to both sides of a conflict, creates opportunities for non-violent responses to conflict, and proposes solutions.

study from a professor at Park University suggests that the practice of peace journalism in Ugandan local media mitigated violence during elections in 2011.

Peace journalism is not just a tool for becoming a more responsible journalist but also a tool for better communicating with others. It has made me a better listener, helping me be open to a wider variety of viewpoints and learn the many angles of “the truth” in a story.

Things are rarely ever black and white, and through peace journalism, news reports humanize and give a voice to both sides of a conflict.

This summer, I witnessed violent clashes in my hometown of Sidon in southern Lebanon. Being a part of the story gave me insight into how a news story is put together in the Lebanese media.

The news outlets spotlighted two opposing sides of the conflict: radical Sunni Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir and the Lebanese Army, with civilian reports on Hezbollah’s involvement as a third front.

Being held hostage inside my house, I felt devalued in the media as a civilian. While our hearts and prayers were with our friends and family closest to the clashes, the media was focused on polarizing the situation and creating a thrilling evening news report.

Aisha and fellow social change agents share ideas. Photo credit: ??, February 2012.

Aisha and fellow social activists exchange ideas. Photo credit: Hanane Kai, February 2012.

Rarely does one find peace efforts that have long-lasting effects, but peace journalism has promise, as it focuses on violence prevention.

It can help media outlets report news in a more sensitive and responsible way by providing neutral facts, giving both sides of a conflict an equal voice, humanizing the conflict, being selective about terminology and images associated with the news story, and lastly, proposing solutions.

After a peace-journalism report, the viewer is informed with facts, able to deduce his or her own opinion, and willing to feel compassion for both sides of a conflict rather than aggression towards or fear of one side. “Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion,” as the Dalai Lama XIV said.

I am one of many activists in Lebanon calling for an alternative to the current situation, in which we are more involved in decision making and the country’s security status. Lebanese civilians are tired of being victims of sectarian and political tension and are becoming proactive.

TEDxBeirut participants holding signs to express "All we need is..." Photo credit: ??, November 2012.

TEDxBeirut participants share their views and personalize the event’s theme: “All we need is…” Photo credit: Nadim Kamel, November 2012.

Aisha_HabliAisha Habli studies biomedical engineering and works as a public relations and media specialist. She is a social and peace activist and a member of the Media Association for Peace and MasterPeace Lebanon.




February 2023

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