Public Interest Design shapes the urban ecosystems of the Levant

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Public Interest Design – Levant, known by the acronym PID, is a multidisciplinary NGO, which operates in diverse fields and comes ahead of its time. The strategy is simple: to identify unexplored areas and meet the needs before they were even expressed.

Kamsyn met with Ibrahim K. Zahreddine, co-founder of this innovative company which  collaborates today with universities, companies and international institutions.

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Created three years ago, Public Interest Design – Levant (PID) stands out by its originality and its ability to identify the gaps in the Lebanese society. « We are working with communities, » says Ibrahim, who co-founded PID in 2014. « We conceive a community as a group of individuals that have a minimum of one common feature. It is not necessarily geographically based, it might as well be an interest or a common occupation in the fields of academics, industry, or even nightlife. Our role is to identify areas in which doors are still open. Accordingly, we put together a strategy that includes all stakeholders and beneficiaries”, he explains.

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They explore virgin fields that sometimes hide unaddressed needs & unexpected potential. Therefore, the investigation phase requires a very thorough qualitative and quantitative research.

As the company’s reputation is growing, an increasing number of partners (industrial and NGOs) are getting in touch the PID team. However, their focus remains on Lebanon for the time being, even if some of their partners are foreigners. « We are currently concentrated on Lebanon and the Levant, but we will tackle regional projects as soon as the opportunity presents itself » says Ibrahim.

One of the PIDs project, « In Good Spirit » is perhaps the most iconic of them all since it perfectly incarnates their work methodology and one of their major assets: incorporating the private sector to their projects.

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« Today, companies are using Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a way to clearing themselves from the negative impact they have » says Ibrahim. « Each firm has a set budget, but is frequently not spent effectively or sustainably. In most cases, the CSR budget is spent on billboards or campaigns that have no impact. We chose to redefine CSR and convert it in a shared value. It’s a win-win for PID and their partners in the Private sector: we develop and implement interventions for them, and they help us gain visibility from the beneficiaries ». Thus, this campaign on responsible alcohol consumption has boldly revisited the CSR and used it as an asset rather than a time consuming duty.

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This little gem of innovation doesn’t stop at collaborating with companies, it also introduces unprecedented workshops. « We have identified an obstacle in the design industry: designers do not usually have access to the necessary technology to make their objects, and manufacturers, whether industrial or artisans, do not have the creative expertise of  experienced designers ».

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PID has simply made them work together, so that participants can benefit from each other’s skills. Around 40 to 45 participants, designers, architects, engineers and manufacturers were present joined their efforts to create together over a dozen different products. A inspiring lesson in teamwork in a market challenged by extreme individualism.

This workshop illustrates very well the internal structure of PID which relies on its greatest strength: its multidisciplinary and highly complementary teams. « For example, the urbanism projects that we completed in Karantina and Badaro, the social aspect was not the only factor taken into consideration. We also made sure to have an economic, psychological, cultural, and environmental approach which are also the four pillars of our philosophy » highlighted Ibrahim ». That’s why we make sure to have teams specialized in several fields. Each field can add so much to the service we provide and it would be a shame to limit ourselves ».

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Now riding the path to success, PID isn’t stopping midway. In association with the / izem / agency, PID created the Innovation Factory, a platform of workshops where programs of collaboration, innovation, and creation of objects like large formatted structures are set up. A true playground for designers and manufacturers, who have made it their home.

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