Tuesday, January 19, 2010

7th European Conference on Design Promotion

The 7th European Conference on Design Promotion was held in Paris on the 10th and 12th January 2010. It was promoted by APCI, the Agence pour la Promotion de la Creation Industrielle.

The two day-conference was inspired by the theme ‘Design: by all?’. Here are some notes:

Opening speech:
- Nabeel Hamdi, Professor emeritus, Oxford Brookes University (author of ‘Small Change'). If in the past participation could be seen as an obstacle to creativity, engaging with society is now a key for change. Designers must act as catalysts, who can understand the citizens’ needs and plan for change. However, how far should we go when we design? What is the least we can do to get the things done? What is the right balance between freedom and intervention?

First day/morning: Which approaches and methods can satisfy many stakeholders and develop successful results?
- Andrea Siodmok, Dott Cornwall (UK): To promote real change you have to immerse yourself in the context. Dott Cornwall addresses sustainability and an inclusive society, in a world that is complex, where the community doesn’t live in the community green anymore. Involving citizens from the very beginning and throughout the process is important in order to build their ownership and engagement in the project.
- Nathalie Arnould, City EcoLab (France): The involvement of citizens, who are believed to be the actors of change in the context of social innovation. International network was emphasised, in both capturing examples of solutions developed for similar problems, as well as sharing the solutions created in France.
- Daniel Mignolet, Habitat et Participation (Belgium): Again, designers can be catalysts and promote the engagement of citizens in the process of change. However, engagement must be developed responsibly, in order to avoid manipulation, and value empowerment (see ‘Ladder of Citizen Participation’ by Sherry Arnstein, 1969).

First day/afternoon: Living labs in rural areas, commitment of institutions – which types of organisations, partnerships and governance are key success factors? This session was chaired and concluded by Gisele Raulik-Murphy, Design Wales Senior Researcher and SEE project coordinator.
- Jesse Marsh, TLL-Sicily (Italy): Living Labs are user-driven open innovation systems based on a partnership between business, citizens and government, which enables participants to take an active part in the research, development and innovation process. This is applied to technology, ICT and communication sectors. The speaker also talked about the role of regional innovation policy and designers in the current context (which has shifted from building infrastructures to building networks). Regions must overcome the slow policy process at EU level, be creative and promote transversal, demand-driven innovation policy. Designers have the role of contributing to policy formulation, innovation transfer and partnerships. Link to the Governance and Innovation social network.

- Salvador Fernandez Marquez, Cudillero Living Lab (Spain): a practical example of a Living Lab, Cudillero shows the use of information technology benefiting the traditional fishing industry.
- Philip Joyce, Newcastle City Council: examples of projects that have engaged citizens in the course of developing Newcastle, reinforcing the differences between engaging citizens and empowering them during this process. Principles underpinning community engagement in Newcastle: fairness and equality, clarity, learning, inclusion, and capacity building.
- Claes Frossen, City Move Interdesign (Sweden): integrating a multidisciplinary team, where design methods are applied to engage the community around an issue of local and international relevance. Project managed by SVID, the Swedish Industrial Design Foundation, model provided by ICSID, the challenge: to move Gellivare (the town and the community) to a new area, in order to avoid the risk of ground collapse due to the mining industry.
- Gisele Raulik-Murphy, Design Wales/SEE project (UK): To what extent the initiatives could be transferred to other contexts? Is it possible to replicate solutions and magnify the results? The contrast of traditional policy-making (top-down approach), and modern policy-making (bottom-up approach), which seeks for examples of good practices to inform evidence-based government policies.

Second day/morning: The management of design in turbulent times.
- Thomas Bertin-Mourot, Quantum Glass (France): despite the economic crises, the company invests in product development and innovation in the field of high technology glass.
- Patrick McGowan, IBM/Lotus (USA): not all the design decisions must be based on statistics and facts; however, the designer must have the data available to argue its decisions, even if it is against the evidence available. Co-design is an important process also in the private industry, in order to generate design awareness, demystification and appreciation: ‘When you involve people you must do it in a constructive manner’.
- Robert Sachon, BSH Bosch (Germany): in times of difficult economy, good brands seem to perform better. Bosch has continued to invest in design, and its position is still on the top of the brand benchmarking tables.
- Darragh Murphy, PDR, Design Management Europe – DME Award (UK): a comparison of design strategies, based on the practice presented by the participants of the Design Management Europe Award 2008, followed by a critical comment of their performance in the last year, facing the economic downturn. ‘Where design is a supportive activity, companies invest in design according to their performance’. ‘Where design is a core activity, companies invest heavily in design to overcome poor performance’.

Second day/afternoon: Recreating society: a new design territory?
- Stephane Vincent, La 27eme region (France): the application of design methods and creative thinking within local authorities in order to address social innovation issues. ‘I’d like designers to work with public authorities but they have to be proactive and work with other professionals’. At national level there is little exploitation of design, because it is seen primarily as a tool for economic development. At regional level there are more opportunities, as design is employed in social innovation.
- Pelle Ehn, University of Malmo (Sweden): from ‘thing=object’ to ‘things=governance’, the issue of systems, where design plays a role in developing solutions for the future use and users.
- Sara de Boer, T+Huis/Caren Weisleder, Kolding School of Design (The Netherlands and Denmark): design thinking to solve social problems, illustrated by a case study from Eindhoven, The Netherlands, where the city council entrusted a social challenge to design students, who delivered promising results in the context of rescuing women from prostitution and street life. Their design brief: to create a service that would promote perceivable improvement in the women’s lives.

Final session:
- Charlotte Arwidi, DG Enterprise and Industry: what the Commission is currently saying about design, the results of the public consultation ‘Design as a driver of user-centred innovation’, and some possible future (promising!) steps for design at EU level.

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