At the invitation of BEDA – The Bureau of European Design Associations, the Econcult of the University of Valencia participated in the first Design Policy International Conference `Successful Europe. How Can Design Serve?` in Helsinki Central Library in the heart of Helsinki on Thursday 5th December 2019.
Designscapes team member Dr Chuan Li joined this invitation-only conferment to discuss BEDA´s latest draft of a new Design Action Plan for Europe and proactively shape the development of next-generation design policy for Europe, together with other nearly a hundred European and international experts from the fields of business, environment, government, policy-making, science, technology and design.
This high-level conference focused on the important and urgent subject for Europe, that is, how design can serve the new strategies proposed by new commissioners so as to keep Europe as a global leader at the world stage.
A conference to address priorities of new EU strategy
The conference is composed of three sessions. The first section is about European policy landscaping, wherein Dr Anna Athanaopoulou, head of Tourism, Emerging & Creative Industries at European Commission, informed about policy landscape at the EU level and the role of design and the CCIs in a successful Europe. Anna Whicher, Head of Design Policy at PDR, communicated the BEDA´s recommendation for the next generation of design policy.
The second session involves three speeches concerning the relations between design and priorities (climate change, European value and digitalisation ) of the new EU strategy. Julia Lohman, professor of Practice in Contemporary Design, Aalto University, talked about designing policy and action through co-speculation based on her practices in seaweed arts. Tommi Laitio, executive director of culture and leisure of the city of Helsinki, explained the audience of the democracy-oriented urban generation of Helsinki and the Helsinki Central Library Oodi as a symbol of civic engagement and co-creation. Erkki Liikanen, Chair of Helsinki Graduate Scholl of Economics and former governor of the Bank of Finland as well as European commissioner for enterprise and information society, spoke of the impact and trend of digital society and the potential role of design.
The last session concentrates on exploring the way and mechanism by which design can serve the above strategic priorities through a co-creation-based workshop. The conference ended up with the conclusive speech given by Antti Vasara, President & CEO of VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland), about the vision and goals for Industry 2030 and what design can do to achieve this strategy.
Towards the next generation of design policy for Europe
To respond to A New Strategic Agenda (2019 – 2024) of European Commission and to explore enabling role of design in the implementation of the strategy, BEDA – the Bureau of European Design Association – published its position paper to proactively define the action plan for design. This proposed action plan involves four main aspects, as follows.
First, the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of design help to achieve the goal of a climate-neutral and zero-pollution continent through the transition towards a circular economy by designing and changing the production cycle, business models and consumer behaviour.
Second, collaborative design-driven innovation should provide user-oriented approaches to empower both private and public sectors to provide the best solutions and services for citizens and their needs and thus, ensuring the growth and prosperity for all.
Third, the design should facilitate the discussion among stakeholders about the legal frameworks and ethical use of data and address digital pollution by humanizing the experience of e-transformation.
Lastly, the design should help to transform public sectors’ role as empowering citizens to co-create and co-own public decisions and policies as well as to foster, protect and promote European value globally.
Evidence-based storytelling for design policymaking
In spite of repeatedly speaking of the importance and significance of design, we cannot risk taking a design-involved policy for granted. ‘Big business and government have acknowledged design as an enabling factor’, Anna Whicher said, ‘but there are still 70% of interviewed organisation that doesn’t use design’.
According to Design in European Policy report, there were only 15 out of a total of 28 EU member states that engaged design in their national industry and innovation policies. Furthermore, design policy is not common at regional and local political scenes.
At the moment, European commission is revising and shaping its new design policies according to the new strategic agenda. As Anna Athanaopoulou suggested, design sectors need tell both good stories and concrete figures to justify the importance of design and pursue policymakers to put design in the policy agenda.