6:00PM - 8:00PM

Beyond the Umwelt: Bringing Communities Together through Participatory Design

Biologist Jakob von Uexküll introduced the concept of the “umwelt” in 1909 as a way to capture his observation of the animal kingdom: Different species living within the same ecosystem pick up on different environmental signals. The “umwelt” is the small subset of the world that an animal is able to detect.

In our splintered, increasingly tribalized country, humans are creating their own umwelts. Community engagement nonprofit Pomegranate Center sees this firsthand at our office in the Impact Hall co-working space, located on 2nd Ave and adjacent to many homeless service providers. In the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, hundreds of professionals come to work every day and never interact with the homeless population right outside their office walls.

Pomegranate Center aims to change that through a two-hour design workshop facilitated by founder Milenko Matanovic.

Through a mix of lecture and hands-on design, we will teach attendees how to engage in a participatory public process and build trust with communities throughout the process. The design workshop portion will focus on the streetscape immediately around Impact Hall’s building and how small changes can be in service of big ideas. Namely, how can the streets outside of the Impact Hall build trust and interaction between neighborhood workers and the adjacent homeless community. Attendees should come prepared to put on their design-thinking caps and work in teams.


Seattle Impact Hall is building a diverse network of individuals and organizations committed to solving the world’s social, economic, and ecological crises through their work, investments, and/or volunteer time. As its role in this partnership, Impact Hall will activate its network to connect more meaningfully those working on the inside of the picture glass windows with those who stand in crisis on the outside.

About the Facilitator:

Milenko Matanovic is an artist and community builder. As a young man, he left an art career as a member of the celebrated OHO Group, a collective in his native Slovenia, and immigrated to the United States. His work has been exhibited throughout the world, including MOMA in New York and 2017 Biennale of Venice. Believing that magic happens when art, creative thinking, and community join forces, Milenko founded the nonprofit Pomegranate Center in 1986 and ran it until 2017.

Pomegranate Center equips changemakers with the skills they need to propel successful community-driven design and planning projects. From hands-on art projects to regional planning, our proven Pomegranate Method for Creative Collaboration catalyzes positive change by maximizing community involvement, fostering connections across groups, and creating a sense of belonging in the places where we live.

Quick Info

  • September 19, 2018
  • 6:00PM - 8:00PM
  • design, placemaking, seattle design festival, workshop,
  • 4th Floor Learning Studio