Understanding gender and diversity sensitive smart mobility needs without access to users: The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on TInnGO design outcomes

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The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to work in new ways. Although many researchers and designers are familiar with location independent and asynchronous working, the speed of lockdown and the need to move to total on-line working has proved challenging with, for example, inflexible deadlines which fail to consider the added mental, emotional and physical strains of teleworking, or the need to ‘personally manage’ hardware and software which may have limited functionality when compared to design offices.
This paper addresses issues around the codesign of gender sensitive smart mobility products undertaken as part of the three year, H2020 EU funded TInnGO project (Transport Innovation Gender Observatory (http://tinngo.eu). The project aimed to create a paradigm shift in transport employment, education, design and transport usage, which would break the male domination of the sector. In this project, a central, virtual observatory serves, and is, in turn, served by 10 national hubs (Baltic, French, Scandinavian, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and UK). Each hub gathers data for the larger observatory and uses tools and methods developed by the project (e.g. gender mainstreaming and gender and diversity action plans, mobility surveys) in its local context.
Each national hub was expected to work for 12 -18 months with women, minority and transport excluded groups to understand local issues and barriers to mobility (for example the UK hub looked at BME groups; the Scandinavian hub at bike design). Here, elements of participatory or codesign were introduced as a ‘different’ way of starting conversations with such groups, leading to design briefs, and design concepts which would reveal specific, unmet and unrecognised needs and provoke further conversation.
The impact of COVID-19 was profound. Hubs could not meet with hard to reach groups (either over social media or face to face), designers were unable to travel to the hubs to lead design sessions and co-create with end users. Instead the technical partners in each hub acted as proxies for end users, tentatively developing design briefs for student interns. Communication was mediated through TInnGO’s Open Innovation Platform , Teams and Mural.
Using our experiences over the last 18 months with design student interns, we discuss the management and challenges of design at a distance, in the context of undertaking gender sensitive smart mobility design briefs for the EU and the reception of these by the project team.


  • Transport
  • Gender
  • Design Pedagogy
  • Design Research
  • Design visualisation


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