Two years into the project, Design for Innovation partners met in Cardiff on 21-22 May for a penultimate meeting that combined hands-on knowledge exchange workshop, study visits and steering committee meeting. The key theme for the event was ‘building capacity for design in business support organisations’, but we also reflected on all the good practices learnt so far and shared our progress in developing action plans. The programme was complemented by case study presentations from Clwstwr, User-Factor, PDR and PBS and study visits at Inc. Space and Rabble Studio.

Business and innovation advisors at support organisations are crucial for effective take-up of support programmes and implementation of design. They need to have a good understanding of design to be able to explain its value to specific sector and convince business owners and managers to take up a new project. In a series of discussions on the topic, we have generated loads of insights that are summarised in a separate two-part blog post here.

We had a pleasure to welcome to our workshop Yaroslav Belinsky, Head of Design for Ukraine initiative, who took inspiration from our project and adopted the ecosystem approach to developing action plan for design in Ukraine. It was very exciting and motivating to hear that Design4Innovation triggers positive changes and generates impact beyond partner regions and across Europe. Read more about Design for Ukraine.

After a short presentation from Yaroslav, we kicked off the workshop by reflecting on our learning process by mapping out all the good practices learnt so far. We have identified over 40 good practices and inspirations in design support through our knowledge exchange workshops and study visits. These will help us develop targeted action plans, the progress of which we also shared during the meeting in Cardiff. Building on the learnings and stakeholder engagement, every partner has a clear plan and a set of priorities to achieve. There are even policy changes already happening in some partner regions! We will continue to closely collaborate on refinement and monitoring of our plans.

As part of this partnership meeting, we have lined up a series of interesting case study presentations and study visits for our partners and their stakeholders. Firstly, we heard from Kate Murray from Principality Building Society and Alistair Ruff, Designer at PDR about how design is shifting orientation from market opportunity to customer needs in financial services. It can be challenging at the start to convince the whole organisation to take up a new approach, but as Kate said taking a leap of faith in design has greatly helped to improve the services, brand reputation and customer loyalty.

Clwstwr is a five-year programme funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council to create new products, services and experiences for screen industry, as well as the wider regional creative economy. Greg Mothersdale and Sally Griffith talked about how it will create a platform for independent companies, SMEs, micro-businesses and freelancers to compete with global, highly integrated media companies. The programme will build on South Wales' success in making creative content by putting research and development at the core of production. PDR as a partner of the delivery consortium is applying service design to create easy and intuitive offer for the cluster members.

Richard Morris got the group moving with a tour of the Inc. Space within Cardiff School of Art and Design, highlighting the importance of the emerging creative community it holds being greater than a profit to the institution. The money the graduates pay to work in the space (£1300) goes directly back to them in the form of workshops and expert mentoring in business as well as their discipline, plus use of the workshop and facilities. After their year with the Inc Space, graduates should be in a position to scale up their creative business. With only 4 business not continuing to trade (due to personal reasons or using their knowledge and skills to teach), the model has proven to be massively successful and invaluable to those who have been through the incubator’s programme.

Rabble Studio director, Dan Spain, warmly welcomed us up into the co-working studio he set up 3 years ago. Dan is passionate about people and bringing them together, generally over Portuguese tarts, to share skills and create exciting new projects. The space provides the opportunity for conversations to flourish into ventures with a multi-disciplinary vibe through the different co-working memberships on offer. Plus, Rabble now also boasts 2 studios for rent to provide people with a bigger working home for up to 6 months at a time.

Those two days in Cardiff were packed with knowledge exchange and learning. We look forward to connect and share our lessons and insights with other Interreg Europe projects focusing on creative industries during the Policy Learning Platform event in Riga on 4th June.