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Beyond integration in Multicultural Cities.

MA 2023
Interculturalism, Social Cohesion, Social Impact

Our project looks at the next stage of integration of immigrants in multicultural cities. For this we defined a theory of pollination that will help enable interculturalism in multicultural cities through sharing. Following the same, we designed a hospitality service that utilises the pollination theory in food to hardwire sharing experiences and cultural norms leading to tolerance among people.


We are deeply indebted to the support from all our collaborators.

We have talked to experts from EY about our idea of pollination and they acknowledged the potential of it! London Borough of Barnet: Confirmed that this methodology can be used to create universal spaces such as community cafes where people come together over food. Nesta helped us validate that we can use the methodology to create services for social impact.

We are also deeply thankful to Dr. Maayan Ashkenazi for providing us with meaningful knowledge about social integration.



London is multicultural, a third of its population is foreign born, it houses 270 nationalities and speaks 300 different languages. It is one of the most diverse cities on the planet, and also one that has seen migration the earliest. It has flourished due to its migrant workers and their culture. But now as these statistics suggest more than 50% of people in the UK believe that there is too much immigration.Over 50% of immigrants first and second generation have said that they have been discriminated against, and it only gets worse with time.

How can design facilitate better integration of Immigrants and Natives in Urban Environments?

About Immigrants and Natives

We went across length and breadth of London, to over 13 neighbourhoods with ethnic majorities, such as wembley, new malden, ealing etc. 

What we noticed is that different ethnicities of economic immigrants, ones that have immigrated into the UK for study, work etc legally have different economic starting points. 

There are 4 types.

  • They are either struggling to fulfill basic needs, 
  • embedding into community, 
  • plotting their lives in the new country 
  • or already thriving like many 3rd gen immigrants and natives.

What is more interesting is that their individual hierarchy of needs can be seen as inversely proportional to the collective social cohesion of communities. Which means that the more their individual needs are fulfilled, the more likely they are to be an active part of a cohesive community

In Space

When the same is observed within space, lets take the city of london as the infinite staircase as seen in the image below.

We now see that the distance is greatest when embedding and plotting. This is due to the realisation of different goals and financial inequity between different types of immigrants and natives. It's also here that they are developing their sense of belonging and love within communities, and as observed, here is where they are seperated the most due to their starting points.

Pollination Theory

Pollination happens as bees collect nectar to develop their society within their hives. Something similar happens when we look at the development in human society through the needs perspective. Pollination is when through common mechanisms of daily lifestyle people share their cultural values with each other and involuntarily create tolerant bonds between themselves even if they are very different people. It is different from deliberate integration where activities are created for deliberate sharing that may lead to resistance.


We believe that Integration into multicultural cities requires more than integration, it requires Pollination, where instead of just cohabitating the people socially co-evolve across their cultures, differences, dispersion, behaviour and starting points.

How can we use the mechanism of pollination to create services that enable co-evolution?


Food brings people together

So what is it that brings them together? Through a fairly long survey and kindness of over 45 people, we conclude that it's food. Food has been one of the most successfully integrated artefact of culture across communities and ethnicities. But what is it about food that brings people together? We spoke to Dr. Maayan who is an expert on social integration. She says, “As seen in children of new immigrants who encounter different people from a myriad of ethnicities in their schools, it's shown that they feel most accepted when they share food that they have carried from their homes with their peers and the peers also accept it and react to it.”

People and Place

Components that create co-evolution are people and place. There are three types of spaces where pollination can happen at different levels.Then we started to look into different areas to find what could be a good example of a well integrated immigrant space. 

If we use boxes as a metaphor, Chinatown would be an open box of experiences, also similar to Nolli planning. Compared to a semi open box space like a food hall that has a clear structure but also has a lot of constraints in space and selection. Lastly a closed box of a corporate cafeteria, where food often is survival not enjoyment.

Tiffin Box as Pollen

Inspired from the concept of pollination and our own cultures which are Thai and Indian, we thought about if a person, immigrant or native, bee or insect is an agent then what can be their pollen that they can carry with them. The answer was a tiffin, a travelling lunch box split into units of food made to be eaten by the self and makes it easy to share with others that bring people closer. While growing up we have seen hundreds of people carrying identical yet personalised tiffins that share the same form but different contents that open different worlds on the lunch table over mid-work day conversations.

We step back to analyse the function and ergonomics of the tiffin box which vertically has been used to stack and store a variety of food. But horizontally it contains the nature of unstacking rituals that open for casual sharing and exchanging food. Which we want to emphasise and develop  During the designing process, we combine the existing function of the tiffin box with holistic food curating service along with crafted food selection journey to the space for sharing experience

Service Propositon

A hospitality service in a semi permanent pavilion with open circulation of people. Where semi-open curation of experiences using tiffin boxes and co-cooking experiences meant for people in closed spaces are orchestrated. All in an effort to align them to common efforts, experiences and goals to increase cohesion.


Compared to where people are eating now our service shares some similarities with other hospitality services but what make N-sery different from a market hall, restaurant, and community kitchen are dynamic menu, inclusive food community, proximity to office area, cost effective, available for corporate events, and most importantly hardwiring sharing style of service . As a lovely owner and head chef of a small restaurant we spoke to, auntie Normah said “There is a philosophy in sharing, it’s the way you can develop yourself and know that you can tolerate. You learn to adapt to other cultures and that’s where you get the curiosity to find other people including the values they portray.” Hence our service put emphasis on sharing on the table and also off the table from the food that we sourced from different areas in London. These strings of connections and stories later develop into a network of sharing experience.

We are not changing the eating ritual we are just shaping it.


With N-sery we are trying to break the box through interactions, the design is in the background, we hardwire sharing to give people freedom, options and build conversations about the land they come from, not the box they are being put into. As we look at the short term we just want people to enjoy, experiment and have a good time. Through this slipping in cultural literacy derived from conversations that they have and beyond this is also where its beyond our hands is where they make it all a habit and are led by curiosity, not judgement. All in order to enable interculturalism. We vetted this with our Nick Wilsden from Nesta and he also showed great confidence in the service from a social impact perspective.


We want to specially thank Mr. Judah Armani, our tutor for his unwavering confidence in our practice as we conducted this project and for believing in our capacity to never settle. As mentioned above, we are greatly indebted to all the collaborators for their time and expertise for supporting an unorthodox project such as ours. Thank you to all the students, tutors and staff at the RCA Service Design course for creating the best environment for us to grow and flourish.

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