Xanelé Purén - "We Are Underestimating the Importance of Being Little"




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Apr 18, 2017
by Andrea Abellan and Nicole Bogart
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Xanelé Purén - "We Are Underestimating the Importance of Being Little"

Co-founder of interactive design studio See Saw Do talks about empowering children to become contributors to society Xanelé Purén was a participant in the Salzburg Global program The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play

Xanelé Purén, co-founder of interactive design studio See Saw Do, believes children have a unique and important outlook on society and the cities we live in. This belief has a direct impact on her company's mission. Although the Cape Town, South Africa-based See Saw Do works with a variety of people, the spatial design studio mainly focuses on young children and designing public environments that enhance their sense of being a child. Purén attended Salzburg Global Seminar's session The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play to share her view on place-making and how children's views can be incorporated into spatial design.

"Place-making is a really holistic way of looking at a space," Purén says, noting the people who operate within it are also a part of that space. In many circumstances, children are a large part of public spaces within our cities. When working with schools, for example, she says it's important to work with teachers to create a better understanding of what a child is, what children need and how much power they have.

See Saw Do was born out of Purén's fourth-year design project, while studying visual communication design at Stellenbosch University. Having always loved children, she spent time at a school in a nearby community to identify issues that could be addressed through design. Six years later, Purén says "we've grown our understanding of people, our understanding of children, and our understanding of place."

Two years ago, See Saw Do began focusing on creative education, spending more time with children and exploring how simple tools can empower their sense of self. Purén says she's felt a great sense of joy watching children create and including them in the design process.

But Cape Town faces a wide array of social problems, which presents unique challenges when trying to foster a child-friendly city, Purén says. She believes one of the biggest challenges residents face is understanding that children are active citizens.

"We often hear that we have to train children to become contributors to society, so I think they're greatly underestimated as whole people. We are underestimating the importance of being little," she says. "I think if we can create a mindset in the minds of Cape Town citizens, that will already be a big step to empower children to be more integrated into society."

Purén, who describes Cape Town as a dynamic and diverse city, says that on both a business and community level she sees more organizations focusing on children, providing a promising outlook for future generations. "I can envision Cape Town being a great city for children, hopefully, in the near future," she says, noting there is strength in diversity.

Purén says her participation in Salzburg Global's session has allowed her to create connections with people from several different fields and areas of expertise, paving the way for future collaborations. She adds, "There is already some exciting stuff brewing between participants."

Xanelé Purén was a participant in the Salzburg Global program The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play, which is part of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum, a series held in partnership with the IUCN. The session was supported by the Huffington Foundation, Parks Canada, Korea National Park and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. More information on the session can be found here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/574