After going in to areas like food, housing and even fashion it is now time for IKEA to go into social welfare.
Welcome to the new product by IKEA. It is called SOCIALFÖRVALTNING. In a flat package you will get a job, vegetables and meaning of life. You assemble it yourself and will be a successful member of society.
(Picture above borrowed from Internet.)
Well. All this is true to some extent. But not really. IKEA is not launching a new product called SOCIALFÖRVALTNING. Not even a product called FÖRSÄKRINGSKASSAN. But this Monday they launched a new side to their ordinary business of tealights and sofas. DM is a concept for areas in a city that struggles with socialeconomic challanges. IKEA think they have the answer to this.
This is not the first time IKEA reach out to help people in need. Do you remember when they made flatpack refugee set?
My perception of IKEA from the last five or ten years is that they have been focusing a lot on working with star designers (Tom Dixon, Ilse Crawford, Hay) and brands (Lego, Byredo, Sonos). In other words – very product oriented. Sure, a lot of talk about sustainability but mainly as in new products.
And now IKEA want to shift focus. Less products and more questions about other things in life. Like do we really have to own stuff? How do we get people to be involved in joint spaces?
It’s funny and provocative. What are you willing to share? Your boyfriend?
At an exhibition in Helsingborg in Sweden, IKEA now have two larger settings with questions about living, the future and quality of life. This is obviously a movement from stuff to other things.
So, IKEA wants to save the world. Can IKEA solve the challanges in the dodgy areas?
I am sure they absolutely could, but from my perspective when someone changes focus and want to be something new – I need to take a step back and ask a few follow up questions. Let’s say that this trendexpert would start a cooking school. What are his qualifications? Is it relevant? What does he bring to the table? Is he actuallt competent to run a cooking school? What kind o spices will he use? Does he take veganism or my allergies into consideration? For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know that I am terrible at cooking… So, I would be an exampel of someone who not should fiddle in other areas.
But there are good examples of people that shift from a certain industry into something new and make a real change. Look at how Jamie Oliver have set food at schools on the agenda.
So, at the socioeconomically challanged area of Drottinghög in Helsingborg. Unemployment is high. Security low. Comfort low. Dedication to your neighbourhood is not there at all.
At a space the same size of a large parking lot, they have built a market space, areas to grow food and space for social activites.
Here will be locally sourced crops. But not open for everyone. The crops are sold to restaurants, not handed out to the people living here. And that is fine. IKEA makes money on selling these crops. But it brings something else to the neighbourhood. Perhaps inspiration to try something on your own.
IKEA also make money on renting space etc from local people. But I am also sure they do get some cash from the municipiality.
You can for a fee book a temporary conference room.
Inside the market. Here you can book a stand. Basically start your own business.
A food truck. The new IKEA concept (called DM as in Do More) have employed 51 people in this challenged area. Talented people who have struggled to be on the Swedish labour market. Here they are, proud and happy. With tasty food. I tried.
But the thing is of course – all this raises a lot of questions.
Just like with that trendexpert starting a cooking school. IKEA is extremely monetary… Yes, it needs to be an investment with a return. How does that work? What is focus – making a space nice or give them jobs (jobs, was the answer). And how long are they willing to pursue this? One year? Five?
I left this place with some unanswered questions. What about security (from many angles)? What about the relationship between the local government and the commercial player?
How do you measure “success”?
I do believe that similar “dodgy” areas need work opportunities, beautiful things, enterainment, committment, positivity, pride etc, etc. But is it the role of a furniture company to handle this? I absolutely give this a thumbs up. My main concern is longevity.
Moving on. In another part of Helsingborg, IKEA had rebuilt a three floor storage house with exhibitions.
I got to talk to Marcus Engman, previous design director, who is now back but in a different role. He genuinely wanted to talk about how the perception of home is changing. He said he was more interested in set design than what designers can deliver.
And this whole exhibition is about set design and not new products. As an example is the disco ball a few pictures up. It his the size of a dorm room. Why not make it all into a single bed? Everything happens in bed anyway.
We sat and had our conversation at a looooooooong table representing our various needs when living with various generations. The whole floor was with questions like this. How to build a dorm where you share bathrooms? What are the perspectives of children? Can we express ourselves better if we have more patterns?
How to build an apartment when bathroom is shared?
How would you live if you wanted to push your personality rather than hide it behind functionality?
How to handle doing chores at a collective living?
“Freedom is to sleep around”
Questions about our lives are important. I think it is extremely important that furnishing companies ask these questions. I have previously been impressed by how Vitra have been talking about workspace and for instance the home office.
The shift from launching just products to ideas – it is absolutely here. No one needs stuff any longer. We need solutions and thinking.
I am really happy to see that IKEA realise that. The questions addressed at the exhibition might be relevant. Some of the installations were a bit shallow… but there are several things to take into considerations. People need to be entertained and find instagrammable corners…
If I split the project in two parts – content and execution. I think content could have been a little more forward-thinking. I would have liked to see some answers and not just questions risen. For instance with the bed of “sleeping around”. I am all for sex positivity – but what do IKEA really want? Should we have more sex? Less? Better quality? And what is that?
Execution. I can help to feel disappointed. In general it feels a bit “student-y”.
My favourite part was a section where a lot of invited people shared the homes. You scanned a qr code and got a film clip. That was nice. But do you need an exhibition for that? Couldn’t I watch this from my own home?
So as a summary. IKEA have always wanted a better life for the common man. It is in their DNA. Democratic Design and all that. Now they are pushing boarders. They ask important questions about what a home is. No one wants products so instead content is important.
IKEA also take on socialeconomic challanges. Using design as a tool to make the world a better place.
Did they succeed. I think we have to wait a bit and see how it evolves. There is a risk. Initially I talked about the IKEA rescue shelter. Does anyone use that today? There is a risk that theses things fall into the same black hole of initiatives that people forget. But time will tell.
What is really “sour grapes” is that you “exit through the gift shop”. Leaving these exhibitions with questions about a better quality in life, you stumble over fake plants in plastics for 12 euros.
Why did it have to end so tacky? It sort of leaves you with a harsh reminder “oh, of course it is all about making money”.
So as a grade. 3 out of 5.