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Social Innovation: Creative innovation


Design of the Times 2007

— ​Two British experts on a mission for social and creative innovation. On 22nd November 2006 two inspiring speakers were in Amsterdam for the Creatieve Innovation mini-conference.

John Thackara, of Doors of Perception fame, former director of the Netherlands Design Institute and just rounding off his work at DOTT 07, was in Amsterdam to talk about the DOTT (Designs of the Time) project and the wider implications of 'social sustainability' to the design field. DOTT looked at a series of everyday problems facing 'real' people in local communities and aimed to improve things that were already happening. The dail life issues ranged from better information for Alzheimer's patients and their carers, to more traditionally environment-related issues such as cutting energy bills and carbon footprints on school runs.

DOTT provided designers but also encouraged people as co-designers. Thackara gave an inspiring talk that left us questioning the value of our creative industries and searching for concrete results rather than designing 'perception' that merely creates more desire for consumption.

Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundatino and former Blair advisor, talked about the urgency for a new approach to designing services and public structures in areas such as education and social cohesion. Among some of his recommendations were a call for social R& D funding, supporting incubators and intermediaries, more use of social software and formal methods for 'collective intelligence'. In a similar approach to DOTT, Mulgan asks the key question: 'what works?' and favours rapid prototyping and assessment. It was encouraging to hear that he believed policy was becoming increasingly aware of a broader approach to innovation (according to him now in place in the UK, Denmark, Finland, Australia and China). It seems that 'social innovation' as opposed to economic innovation is a key theme for the future.


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