2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Safety

For current security issues – such as subversion, online security and polarisation – trust is the key to change. Tabo Goudswaard, the curator of the Embassy of Safety, says, “Trust is important for a well-functioning society. In a society where people trust each other, there is more cooperation, and people are more likely to help each other. Which in turn ensures a good socio-cultural climate and a well-functioning economy.” That’s why this year’s Embassy of Safety theme: in makers we trust. During Dutch Design Week 2022 (DDW22), the Embassy showed how society becomes safer by relying on the power of makers.

Type Update
Published on 14 December 2022
Part of Embassy of Safety
2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Safety
Part of Embassy of Safety

“We’re familiar with makership from designers and artists. It is complementary to the traditional way of working within the security domain. Makers have more of an eye for subjectivity than for objectivity. Meaning is important, as are the senses. Makers think in terms of possibilities and experimenting and do not need to know in advance exactly what the result of their work will be.” 

This makes it an enrichment for tackling issues in the security domain, Goudswaard continues. “In the Embassy of Safety, we address the makership of safety professionals and other stakeholders. That is necessary because, with the current systems, we’re not solving problems such as undermining and polarisation.” 

Read the curator interview with Tabo Goudswaard here.

The Klokgebouw at Strijp-S was once again the stage for this year’s exhibition, which showcased projects that, among other things, put urgent subjects on the agenda to increase awareness of safety risks and are open to people’s subjective experience. Projects that make you look at an issue differently.

Ontwapens - Studio SMELT - credits: Max Kneefel

Ontwapens (Disarms)

Such as the Disarming project of a local police officer from Gouda and the Rotterdam design studio (SMELT) as part of the Social Design Police programme. The central question in this project was how to motivate officers to use non-violent qualities when a situation threatens to escalate. Together they developed “Disarms”. The Disarms are designed as objects and just as concrete as the weapons hanging from an agent’s belt. They are personal strategies of agents that they can use to de-escalate a situation. Like holding up a mirror with the ‘mirror glove’.

All Cops Are

How you look at someone else is the focus of the project All Cops Are. What do you see when you look at another human being? What immediately stands out? What is difficult or impossible to see? How do you characterise the person in front of you and how do you come to this judgement? In All Cops Are, a group of police officers allow themselves to be profiled by random passers-by on the street. By subjecting every officer to the experiment in plain clothes and uniform, we obtain a judgement in stereo: a reflection on the person and the officer. Also, a project from the Social Design Police programme. A project designed by Lotte Atsma, a youth police officer in Hengelo and designer Atelier Yuri Veerman.

Vanavond niet (Not Tonight)

It can be very frustrating when nightclub bouncers don’t let you in. But maybe it’s also good for something? Young people don’t let everyone into their world. They often have good reasons for this. In the Embassy Lab Jonge Aanwas, the Embassy of Safety is working on a new perspective on the nuisance caused by and criminalisation of young people in the Doornakkers district in Eindhoven. During DDW22, the Embassy provided an interim update on the research project from the Night Club Academy and the municipality of Eindhoven.

Mes Less (Knife Less) 

Amsterdam has a major weapon problem. The Public Prosecution Service, police and schools are already taking various actions to do something about this. Such as detection gates at schools, weapon surrenders and the deployment of experienced experts. Mes Less is a VR game and teaching programme developed for and with young people aged 10 to 14 to prevent young people from carrying bladed weapons and to reduce incidents with bladed weapons. By imitating situations, young people really feel that they are in that situation. After the game, the young people discuss knife violence with each other and with the supervisors.

Mes Less was developed by Garage2020 and Enliven in collaboration with subject matter experts and commissioned by the Actiecentrum Veiligheid en Zorg (AcVZ), with Breed Offensief Tegen Ondermijnende Criminaliteit (BOTOC) resources from the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Watch the curator tour with Tabo Goudswaard here: trusting the maker in yourself at the Embassy of Safety.


During DDW22, visitors could also experience for themselves whether they would reach for a knife in certain situations. You could not only attend a workshop from the Mes Less project, but you could also experience All Cops Are and Disarms for yourself. Prototypes for Disarms were made for agents in two sessions. After the session, the agents wore their Disarms at DDW. 

Another workshop, for example, was Sleep Twice from the Nachtclub Academie. This intimate nocturnal environment makes it easier to break through existing patterns and to give and gain access to each other’s lived experiences. The LookBack workshop also took place, an interactive tool developed by the municipality of Amsterdam and the design agency Greenberry. Gun incidents are often rooted in conflict that is exacerbated by online peer pressure on social media. LookBack maps an incident retroactively.

Talking about makership

This year there was also a conference in which the makers of various organisations spoke, and inspiring design projects and insights from scientific research were shared. Makers and audience members talked to each other about being a maker. This time there were contributions from: Danish Design Centre, Association of Dutch Municipalities, SIDN fund, Greenberry, Municipality of Amsterdam, Civinc, Atelier Yuri Veerman, Social Design Police, Studio Sociale Centraal, Province of North Brabant, Taskforce-RIEC Brabant-Zeeland, TUDelft, Ministry of Justice and Security, Probation Service NL, the Public Prosecution Service and other makers from the security sector. Tabo Goudswaard, the Embassy curator, moderated the discussions.

Technician seeks designer

Mieke van Heesewijk, deputy director of SIDN Fund: “We have been campaigning for an open and free internet for 7.5 years now. We’ve been doing this through various projects. An important aspect is the end user. Many projects are technically oriented, and little thought is put into how an app should be used. Mieke Heesewijk: “During conversations, we often ask the question: how will my mother use this? We have now had two programmes from ‘Technician Seeks Designer’. Designers are needed to allow the technology to be used. This significantly increases the impact of the project.”  

A good example of this is Ruben Treurniet’s Civinc. The SIDS Fund has focused on disinformation for the past three years. Van Heesewijk: “We see that disinformation causes polarisation. The project allows people to talk directly to each other with completely opposite opinions.”

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