Barnekonvensjoner: Designing with the complex dramas in child welfare

Photo: Kristiania/Jonatan Quintero

Emma (5) is found under a table at a Christmas party that has gone out of control. “Child Conventions – A Christmas Story” is a story about child welfare, about Emma, about everyone who loves her, who tries to help her, help each other, and help themselves. 

How can theater and design be used to shape complex public services? Throughout the fall of 2023, students, researchers, and teachers from the SOD unit at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design and the Department of Performing Arts at the Kristiania University College – explored how theater and design could be used to open up new perspectives and conversations about how the child welfare system is, and could be. The project was done in collaboration with the Child Welfare Administration in Bærum municipality. In the transdisciplinary project, they worked closely with nearly 100 people who had experience as children, parents, foster parents, and workers in the child welfare system. 

Through extensive research, using various design practices, the participants became familiar with experiences and perspectives on what child welfare is, and what it means to people. These insights became the foundation for an interactive public play, performed for over 800 people at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. In the performance, the different perspectives took shape in and between fictional characters. The ambition was to make an experience that enacted how complex child welfare can be, seen through the eyes of these characters, and that the dramatization inspired new thoughts and conversations about child welfare in the general public and within the system.

The project was part of Audun Formo Hay’s doctoral research at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. As an explorative research project, it did not try to provide answers on how the child welfare system is, or should be. Based on insights from the project, however, it posed some open questions about how people view children, families, care, and expertise, and how this shapes the way we protect our children.

The Play

Actors and actor roles

Video: Kristiania/Antero Hein

Watch the performance here. Turn on subtitles if you don’t see them.


Project report from the SOD students

Project participants:

Systems oriented design students: Adelisa Llani, Anna Kristine Aarø Halvorsen, Arman Bulak Hagelia, Chen Huang, Haekwan Jung, Hobbe Mikael Erik Strömberg, Jenny Holm Bjørgum, Lara van der Poel, Laura García Esteban, Linman He, Orawan Hernmek, Per Roppestad Christensen, Petter Alexander Gouiran, Sara Aspaas Friling, Sigurd Braathen Dalen and Yijuan Wang. 

Acting students: Tobias Berg Braathen, Regine Gude, Emanuel A. Klyve, Anders Holmberg Lurås, Tiril Marie Olsen, Frida Østby Pedersen, Rebecca Rønning Sandnes, Maria Skrudland. 

Script writing students: Hannah Haslie, Sara Wist Tangenes, Lars Alexander Haustreis, Tord Kinge. 

Production team (Kristiania): Nadia Marie Kummeneje, Mats Bergström, Leven Echelpoels og Simon Mørland. 

Teachers design (AHO): Abel Crawford, Josina Vink, Andreas Wettre, Jonathan Romm. 

Director: Simen Formo Hay. 

Project/research lead: Audun Formo Hay