Rural social innovation

Sobole, Poland


What is the future of the countryside? Is our future to be found outside the dense urban landscapes in rural environment? How future technologies might affect the lives of the 45% of world population who lives in the countryside?

The challenge we worked on

In 2018 we explored what are the challenges of rural Poland and what can we do about them. Together we brought expertise from different disciplines and focused on one thing: how can we make the life of those who live in the Polish Radzyń Podlaski County better. We worked with local businesses, civil organisations and the public sector. With the local agents of change. Together we looked for answers to the following questions.

How might we tell the story of Radzyn county so that it becomes attractive to visitors and young entrepreneurs?

How might we keep the food tradition of Radzyn alive?

How might we design from scratch, or hack existing, public spaces to bring people together?

How might we introduce behavioural change to the people in the countryside that supports wellbeing and that sticks long-term?

What are the results

From August 10th to 19th 2018, 24 participants — from 4 continents and 16 different countries and with backgrounds ranging from product and service design to psychology and coding — gathered on the grounds of the Sobole Foundation — a creative campus set up by the Polish studio Rygalik. There they conceived a series of creative & business proposals to reactivate the countryside and fight rural exodus.

During the 10 days of the workshop, the group — divided in 5 teams led by 5 international women professionals from various disciplines — worked closely with Holis’ local partners — cultural associations and small businesses — and came up with 5 projects. Among the five projects presented, Smaking has been received very positively and shall be implemented by Holis with the local partners in the upcoming months, thus confirming the institution’s tangible and impactful role.

The projects were delivered by


Michala Lipkova

Product Designer, Assistant Professor at Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava

Michala is a designer working along boundaries of product and experience design. She leads commissioned research projects at the Institute of Design at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. Since 2013 she is a managing director of collaborative platform Flowers for Slovakia, focused on promotion of Slovak design abroad. In 2017 she has co-founded hardware startup Benjamin button.


Dana Olarescu

Dana is an interdisciplinary artist working between the boundaries of art and design, with a focus on social and climate justice. Amongst others, her participatory projects have been presented at Tate Modern, Museum of London, and London Short Film Festival (UK), Incheon Art Platform (South Korea), Centre for Art on Migration Politics (CAMP), Tanzhaus NRW (Germany), La Virgule (France), and Tranzit (Romania).


Cansu Deniz Bayrak

Cansu is an early stage investor for tech for good companies. As senior partner, her focus at BGV is building meaningful partnerships for their portfolio teams and the fund itself. She also supports fundraising efforts for their investment vehicles. She has been involved with early stage ventures as founder, operator, mentor and now investor throughout her career in tech.


Barbara Predan

Barbara is an assistant professor, theoretician, designer, author, and Design for Europe Ambassador. Co-founder and leader of the department of design theory at the Pekinpah Association, and director of the Ljubljana Institute of Design, an academic research organisation. Since 2010, with Petra Černe Oven, she has been co-editing Zbirka 42, a series of books on design, under the auspices of the Pekinpah Association.


Joana Braga

Joana is a researcher, architect and intermedial artist. She coordinates and curates Topias Urbanas (Urban Topias), an artistic and urban research project which, combining a processual, collaborative and relational ethos with a discursive and reflexive dimension generates experimental and interrogative cartographies of the multiple layers that compose urban space.


John Thackara

Writer, Advisor, Speaker

John Thackara is a philosopher, writer and advisor. He helps companies and cities design innovation platforms that benefit all life, not just human life. His most recent book (of 12) is How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow's World Today. John curated the celebrated Doors of Perception conference for 20 years, first in Amsterdam, and later in cities throughout India.


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