Speculative Storytelling as Transformative Practice

Reimagining Narratives of Displacement

Organized by collaborators from the UN and faculty from the Parsons School of Design



Hausmanns gate 34

0182 Oslo

This session will focus on cultivating spaces for collaborative creativity, offering opportunities for participants to imagine and manifest artifacts and propositions as modes of speculative storytelling to promote social change. 

The event will be facilitated by collaborators from the United Nations and by faculty from Parsons School of Design who are currently exploring how storytelling and speculative fabulation can act as world-building practices. The collaborative partnership engages art, storytelling, design, and the social sciences to address alternative approaches to thinking about displacement, asking difficult questions about the UN and the futures it shapes. 

Participants will have the opportunity to not only engage in generative activities but learn more about this collaboration through a gallery exhibition, and gather insights from Project Unsung, a speculative storytelling project that brought together creative collaborators from around the world to help reimagine the humanitarian sector and promote narrative change and foresight within the UN system.


Lauren Parater is a Creative Strategist at United Nations Global Pulse, supporting the UN Secretariat’s innovation and strategic foresight portfolio. Previously, she led strategic communication and storytelling initiatives at the UN Refugee Agency’s Innovation Service. Her current professional and personal explorations focus on the intersections of design, narrative change, world-building and social justice. She has spent her career exploring how creativity and radical imagination can be used to communicate complex issues and spur alternative ways of seeing and being in the world. 

Cian McAlone is Assistant Innovation Officer at the UN Refugee Agency, supporting the Innovation Service’s Strategic Communications and Design portfolio. He is interested in the role of communication, narrative, and organizational strategy in serving the political, social and economic concerns of people forced to flee.

Shanice Da Costa is an artist and training environmental scientist. Having South Asian heritage and living as an immigrant in both UAE and Germany, she has a deep appreciation for multicultural belonging (and multicultural cuisine). Professionally, she has an interest in intersectional climate justice and ecological art, and how the two are being ad- dressed in climate change communication. She has been supporting the Innovation service on both design and environmental conversations since December 2020.

Jane Pirone is an Associate Professor of Design Ecologies at Parsons School of Design where they served as Dean of the School of Design Strategies from 2015-2019 and as Director of the Communication Design program from 2006-2011. Jane’s creative and transdisciplinary practice engages with living systems, storytelling, participatory futures, and new technologies from critical, queer and post-human perspectives.

Barbara Adams is a sociologist whose interdisciplinary research looks at how knowledge is produced and po- litical action is initiated through art and design projects. Barbara co-edited the book Design as Future-Making and is co-editor in chief of the journal Design and Culture. She is Assistant Professor of Design and Social Justice at Par- sons School of Design and was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Wesleyan University.

Hala Abdel Malak is design critic, curator, educator, researcher and strategist. Born in Beirut during the civil war, she grew up, worked, and studied internationally, in Lebanon, USA, Canada, UAE, Holland, UK, Morocco and France before grounding in New York. Hala’s multicultural background is reflected in her versatile transdisciplinary approach she explores work around global dynamics, power, organization, leadership and societal impact. Her interests span from re-imagining and challenging learning, knowledge production and creative education to include diverse, non-colonial and indigenous perspectives and traditional ecological knowledge, the exploration of global cultural and societal dissonance and flow, the resonance around migration and forced displacement and the triggers and contexts for resistance, advocacy and revolt. Her work has been featured and published in Print Magazine, Design Indaba, Metropolis, AIGA, Beirut Design Week, NYC x Design, Wanted Design NYC, Smithsonian Media, MOMA and SXSW, where she was awarded the Learn by Design award for her work on refugee education. She is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Design and Management and Director of the Strategic Design and Management BBA at Parsons School of Design.