This is design research at its finest. Or pretty darn close. Polar Design, a firm in Barcelona, worked on this Eurocities project back in 2002 but I think this concept could be an amazing way to link design practice and process to industries or communities who may not yet know of its value in navigating the complexities we are faced with in our world.
Imagine inviting some of your city officials to an amazing dinner. The table cloth, instead of being a mere accessory to beautify the event, becomes a place to actively dialogue with those around you. While you eat, you are visualizing the conversations presented to you on the table cloth.
Could this be a new alternative to local democratic exchange? If Obama can have a state dinner, could the local community do the same and address issues over a meal? We may not have a presidential budget but each community will have vendors who would likely benefit from the opportunity to be included in such an undertaking.
Lucy Orta has pursued this idea as an artist with her 70x7 Meal Acts. What if this was the new way that policies were introduced and discussed? And what if, instead of having a town hall meeting to address new by-laws, you invited a few members of the community to also join in at this table? Maybe it becomes the way that new ideas get introduced in order to test their validity and acceptance?
The designed table cloth offers a creative conduit to exchange activity, food and conversation around any topic. This activity could allow for new ideas to emerge when considering how to collectively work toward a common future. By treating complexity with a measure of comradery, perhaps we can see each other and the problems differently.
Editor's note: Since posting this idea to Twitter and sharing it with a couple Design Week 2010 friends, it seems we have some interest in making this a reality!
Update: Three dinners occurred during Design Week Vancouver. We have since had requests to host this event in various locations. We're very encouraged by the positive feedback we received and enjoyed putting on an event that included good food, good people and good conversation. Watch for updates!