The Super Local design studio finds local solutions worldwide. Founders Luc van Hoeckel and Pim van Baarsen aim to facilitate change and innovation that rewards the local population, through collaboration with local communities, practitioners, and designers. They believe that solutions for social and cultural problems ‘are always found in the country itself – by supporting the local economy, creating employment and encouraging entrepreneurship.’ Dutch designers van Hoeckel and van Baarsen take a bottom-up approach to sustainable problem-solving. They facilitate hands-on design interventions, employing members of the local community and using local materials to address local issues.
The majority of their projects take place in non-western countries where infrastructure is less developed and initiatives such as recycling are still in their infancy. ‘In these countries we really can add something useful,’ says van Baarsen. ‘There are countless possibilities to solve real problems.’ The Care Collection saw Super Local collaborate with craftspeople in Malawi to produce high-quality hospital products, tackling the issue of expensive, sometimes poor-quality imports. The team developed a small community industry that draws on local materials and skill sets, not only providing much-needed equipment to hospitals but also boosting the local economy and employment.
‘Countries like Malawi are flooded with cheap, mass-produced products from, for example, India and China,’ explains van Baarsen. ‘Crafts and local productions fall into oblivion and sometimes disappear. I believe it can even affect the identity of the country.’ In contrast, he says, Super Local likes to work as locally as possible. ‘We want to make local communities proud and give them responsibility,’ says van Baarsen. ‘We believe real sustainability is working with people and want to make them part of the project.’ Bottle Up, a collaborative initiative that took place in Zanzibar, saw the team tackle the double-edged sword of tourism in the area. The tourist industry provides valuable income, but also generates waste – including glass.
The team developed a scheme to upcycle this glass, providing local people with employment and creating a unique product industry for the area. What is important to the team, as van Baarsen explains, is not what they produce during a project, but the legacy they leave behind: ‘We eventually try to make ourselves superfluous. If that works, it means we did our job.