UXO-Survivor Information Centre

Andi and me moderated a meeting / workshop with the World Education / Quality of Life Association staff to discuss the further development and improvement of the Visitor Centre in Phonsavan. We did 3 small activities which helped to discuss the following themes:

1. For whom is the Visitor Centre?
2. What are the main activities?
3. How can the rooms be used? (develop scenarios)

The goal of our workshop was to involve everyone in the development of the interior design and especially to discuss problems they face at the moment and ideas how they would like to upgrade the centre in future. Even though there are important themes left that still need to be discussed, I think that the outcome of the workshop is a good foundation for whatever comes next!

This is a brief summary of our meeting:

1. WHO uses the information centre?
> tourists (lao as well as from abroad)
> doneurs (the centre has to fulfill representative functions)
> people who come for training / educational reasons
> the NPA staff

2. WHAT are the main activities?
2.1. information (about activities of NPA, Victim Assistance):
> exhibition
> ressource-centre: reading room, videos…
2.2. meeting room (internal with the staff and external for UXO-Survivor and other interested people)
> training facility?
2.3. works-space for internal staff
2.4. point of sell for products made by NPA members (souvenir-shop)

additional ideas: internet-service, rest-area, story-cor (collect stories from visitors and UXO-survivors), cafe

3. SCENARIOS
3.1 room upstairs
“relax-area and ressource centre”: sit-down, read, have a drink, watch video, wait for massage
needs / ideas: lights, TV-screen or projector and earphones (which movies to show?), library (shelves + content: books, magazines etc), table, chairs/couch, fan, curtain to stop noise from outside, coffee-machine, different surface for floor to make the room more cosy (bamboo mats etc.), art on walls? different color for walls
problems: heat (no fan), low ceiling, lightning, sound from the street, upgrade the bathroom!

3.2 small room downstairs
“souvenir-shop as well as sell food & drinks”
needs / ideas: lightning, refrigerator, different furniture for different displays for souvenirs (hanging, lying etc.), fan, long-distance phone calls, bicycle for rent (advertising for USIC at the back of bicycle similar to COPE-centre), sell ice-cream from hand-made ice-cream shop next door, bigger window, Video-room

3.2 big room downstairs
” exhibition and meeting room”
needs / ideas: put exhibition displays on wall (bamboo frame), murals from workshop with lisa, small display area for products combined with information about producer groups, interactive elements, have a big table in the middle of the room (or fold-up tables on the wall), interactive elements in the exhibition (mock-up of puppet show, video of puppet-presentation etc.), small sitting area close to window
problems: electricity device, light, how to use the height of the room?

Lessons learnt, Questions to ask
> the importance to enforce communication and collaboration in Laos; bring people together for discussion and exchange
> the difficulty to let ideas flow without judging them
> how to control dominant persons and avoid hierarchies?
> in Laos, you have to start with many small things at the same time (otherwise nothing happens at all) – it seems to be impossible to work in a strategic and structured way
> how to encourage laotians to come up with own ideas instead of being too shy or just copying things they see somewhere else?
> realizing that we are not only expats / consultants but rather teachers who assist our clients to find and make decisions by themselves
> it’s not only about involving people but about making them feel excited, engage them and inspire each other

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