Method of The Activist Lab

Human-Centered Design

The Activist Lab is a workshop of four days, based on the methodology of Human-Centered Design. Human-Centered Design is “a methodology that starts with building a deep empathy with people you are designing for” and uses ideation, a lot of creative methods, co-creation, and prototyping to make sure the end products indeed serve the needs of the people you are designing it for.

Local issues

This means that the Activist Lab focuses on a very specific and, most of the time, a very local issue of concern: a bridge in Mitrovica, Kosovo that divides instead of connects two parts of town; a public part in Beirut, Lebanon that is closed for the public; or Syrian refugees who have no voice in the political debate on refugees in The Netherlands.


The maximum amount of participants of an Activist Lab is 25 persons; small enough to work creatively together on a common cause and big enough to have the knowledge, skills and energy to develop something new and relevant.

Most of the time the participants will work in groups of 4 to 5 persons. Ideally, each group includes a mix of participants from different backgrounds, with different skills: activists, artists, designers, coders and journalists. This diversity is necessary to discover new possibilities and to co-create something completely new and energetic.

A process of three stages

The methodology follows three stages: Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation. It puts – more than many other methodologies – great emphasis on the end-user of the ‘product’ you are developing.


It starts with an in-depth exploration of the people you are developing for. Who are they? Where do they live? How do they live? What are their interests, hobbies, worries, needs? How can you reach them? How can you involve them in your plans? [picture of create a persona]


During the second phase, the results of the research are being used to generate tons of ideas. At this stage, quantity is more important than quality – this helps you to open up your mind, to think the unthinkable, to feel unconstrained by financial or other possible troubles. A next step in the process is to check which ideas may actually work, and to test these with the people you are developing for.

The final step in this phase is to build prototypes. Building prototypes is an efficient way of exposing  your ideas to the outside world, without spending loads of time and money on a final product yet. After collecting feedback and improving your plan. you are ready for the next step, implementation. [picture of prototypes]


Implementation of your ideas first of all means you need a good action plan. Who is doing what and when? What resources are needed? Who else need to get on board? And: you need to check on a regular basis whether the people you had been developing for still think it is a good idea and see the benefits in the implantation!

Want to know more about Human-Centered Design?

Want to know more or to see other concrete examples of how Human-Centered Design works in practice? Check the websites of the following two organisations: and

The Activist Lab

Learning while doing.

At the core of the Activist Lab lies the idea that we learn most and best while we do. We have two assumptions:

  • Each individual activist has certain skills and knowledge that someone else is lacking. The idea is to link the requester with the provider.
  • By linking up and sharing experiences, lessons can be learned and new methods and tools can be developed.

We have developed this method of co-creation together with Butterfly Works, a social innovation studio from the Netherlands.

Co-creation expresses the idea that ‘none of us is as smart as all of us’, that an action plan or campaign will be dramatically improved by involving makers, thinkers, authors and end-user.

We launched the Activist Lab in Beirut [click to read about our first meeting]:

Public Space and Activism

From 9 – 12 April 2015 PAX and NAHNOO will organize a new version of the Activist Academy, a place where activists from different countries exchange, interact and work together for more effective and concrete action. The topic of this academy is going to be PUBLIC SPACE. Why is this an important topic to work on?

Coen Veerman (intern at the Activist Hive) has reviewed different sources of information regarding public space. For the whole article, see below.

Read more

Nonviolent struggle: 50 crucial points.

nonviolent struggle

Extremely interesting and important read, made by CANVAS: nonviolent struggle, 50 crucial points.

The co-author of this document, Srdja Popovic, is also cofounder and key figure of the Serbian resistance movement “Otpor!”. Otpor had a huge contribution to helping topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 2000. Popovic became member of the Serbian National Assembly for three years until CANVAS was created (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies). With a transfer of strategic knowledge and tips on nonviolent resistance, in the form of books and workshops, Popovic and CANVAS support democratic nonviolent movements worldwide. Popovic also translated literature about nonviolent resistance, amongst others Gene Sharp’s work “From Dictatorship to Democracy”.

CANVAS has worked with the movement of the 6th April in Egypt and also with other nonviolent revolutionary movements in the Middle East. This manual, “Nonviolent Struggle, 50 Crucial Points”, has been translated into 16 languages and has been downloaded about 17.000 times during the protests in Iran in 2009.

for more information check &


Public Spaces and Spatial Practices: Claims from Beirut

[article originally found on :]

Public space seems to be back in vogue these days, especially in relation to social protests taking place in city squares and along major streets, occupying and claiming spaces, often violently. Why do public spaces matter in cities? Is the absence or presence of public spaces in cities related to the rise of political and social movements? Can protests happen in cities that lack public spaces? Do public spaces lead to radical spatial politics? Are public spaces a means for political and social change?
Read more

Activist Academy Beirut: Public Space

indiscriminate bombing
A new and fresh version of the Activist Academy is coming up! In April, together with Lebanese NGO NAHNOO, PAX will bring together activists to learn, connect and act on a very topical issue for activists: PUBLIC SPACE.

During the Activist Academy issues around the topic of public space will serve as a starting point for an exchange between activists from different countries. The goal is to work on concrete action, strengthen an international network of activists, foster inspiration and connection and learn about new tools and tactics for better and improved activism.

Stay updated to learn about our program (that is being developed as we speak). In the next weeks, a database with interesting articles and information will be made for activists interested in this subject.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates and don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Release the #Douma4 – Dec 9th 2014

Tuesday, the 9th of December, marks the first anniversary of the abduction of the four human rights activists, Razan Zaitouneh, Samira al-Khalil, Wael Hamadeh and Nazem Hammadi.


Meet Emel

Hi, I am Emel Ajdini from Kosovo. I’m a youth worker at the NGO Integra in Prishtina, and I’ve been working in civic activism since 2008. When civic engagement and activism are done properly, you can contribute to building your community and participate in local government decision-making processes.

It’s not easy to work in a post-conflict country. But loving what you do helps you to overcome the obstacles, and gives you hope that things will change for the better. I always tell people, especially young people in Kosovo, to be active citizens, raise their voice on public concerns, and participate in various activities. In this way they will enhance their personal development and become community promoters.


Bakkie met een Irakkie!

By Coen Veerman and Pim Gerritsen  [See below for the images and videos of the road trip]

In a bright orange minivan we travelled more than 800 km through different cities and places in the Netherlands to drink a Bakkie met een Irakkie (a cup of coffee with an Iraqi). We invited people passing by to have a cup of coffee with our guests. Our goal? There’s a lot of attention for Iraq and the current war, the focus lies on the extreme violence and brutality. Read more