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By Chuan Li & Pau Rausell (UVEG)

Design can play an important role in the process of new product and project development through co-creation with users, particularly in the urban context. Public participation in clustering and forming the ideas behind the products and projects is crucial for any process of user-oriented innovation. This is the only way to address the real needs extracted from public users at the heart of the co-design method.

The ongoing campaign of World Design Capital (WDC) 2022 in Valencia is one of the early attempts to engage the public in the process of validation and formation of ideas, so as to evaluate and confirm a set of challenges that the city is facing in the process of building capacity of design-enabled innovation in European cities.  

During the third week of February, the Designscapes consortium member the Research Unit for Economics of Culture and Tourism (ECONCULT), in collaboration with the Association of Valencia Capital of Design, organised a series of co-creation events to activate some key targets to be addressed in Valencia’s official claim application.

These events involve two phases. In the first phase, a questionnaire was sent to more than 300 leaders of public opinion from all walks of life so that they can assess and validate what are the most urgent challenges. In the second phase, a total of 116 participants are invited to join related workshops linked to their interests and professions, with the purpose of identifying the priorities from a citizen’s perspective.

These workshops involve five consecutive day-long sessions hosted by five cultural institutions, public and private, including Centro Cultural La Nau, Las Naves, Muvim, Convent Carmen and Centre del Carme, which are not only hosting but also involved in the process as institutional stakeholders.

Each session corresponds to certain specific societal topics, including:

Topic 1: design: social awareness, education and gender

Topic 2: design, city and innovation

Topic 3: design, memory, placemaking, the Mediterranean and sustainability

Topic 4: design, tourism, gastronomy, business and production sector

Topic 5: design, art, social inclusion, health and welfare

A glimpse of each session. Photo by Pau Rausell

As a result, the co-creation events have successfully validated a set of simplified challenges and objectives concentrated explicitly on the actual expectations from the citizens. They  also have identified key stakeholders eager to get further engaged in the following stages of the project through co-designing activities or integrating their own initiatives in the whole agenda of the campaign.

After an exploratory exercise inspired and supported by DESIGNSCAPES, Econcult wishes to advocate and foster a more participative, inclusive and democratic process of social innovation not only by encouraging public participation but also by placing them at the centre of the priority during the development of the project.

Some first lessons can be taken away from the above exercise. First, a proper selection of representative citizens has a multiplying effect. Second, effective use of ICTs is a more efficient way to reach and engage stakeholders, in comparison with conventional measures. Third, co-creation and public participation are only a means, not an end goal. And finally, wherever possible…keep it simple!