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New research project at “What Design Can Do”

Avans presents a new research project at What Design Can Do, Amsterdam’s favourite festival on the impact of design.

On 3 June 2022, WDCD Live returned to the heart of Amsterdam for the tenth edition of its annual festival at the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam. What Design Can Do is an international organisation which seeks to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, fair, and just society, by harnessing the power of design. Based in Amsterdam, with hubs in São Paulo, Mexico City, Delhi, Nairobi, and Tokyo, WDCD has been initiated, curated and organised by creatives, ever since its first iteration in 2011.

Plenary sessions were run on the main stage by international artists, activists, and opinion-leaders, and visitors were also invited to participate in small-scale break-out sessions. On behalf of Avans Hogeschool in general, and the Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy in particular, Douwe-Frits Broens introduced and explained From Award to Impact, a research project which brings together creative designers, policymakers, and stakeholders. The project aims to determine whether and how heterodox economic models can be used to develop new pathways, or to broaden existing pathways, that increase the (environmental) impact of biobased solutions.

The project, which is funded by TKI CLICKNL, is a collaboration between Dr. Sebastian Olma (Avans Caradt/ Cultural and Creative Industries research group); Dr. Douwe-Frits Broens (Avans Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy); Dr. Kaj Morel; and Estelle Nieuwenkamp MBI (both Avans ESB/ New Marketing research group).

The discussion at the end of the breakout session revolved around two questions: What is impact? And how do we measure it? It appeared that, though many designers set out with noble aspirations –  to draw attention to social inequality, for example, or to give voice to refugees – with retrospect, success is often derived from quantitative data such as financial turnover or reach and readership: the circulation of a book, the number of people who attended a screening. However, there was also a counter-sound. A new narrative is emerging, one in which audience adaptability, or aspirations towards change, are also considered desirable impacts.

The research project will continue in 2022-23 with an extended investigation into the above-mentioned questions. This next phase will focus on designers’ perspectives on sustainable innovation. Designers will work co-creatively with a shared intention to explore potential new impact pathways that are based on a value concept that emphasizes enhanced diversity and inclusivity. Do you want to be kept informed of the outcomes? Keep an eye on our websitearrow.

Picture left: Saskia Stein of WDCD hosted the discussion
Picture right: Douwe-Frits Broens and host Saskia Stein

From Award to Impact

The aim of this project is to design effective new impact pathways for creative interventions based on new insights, drawing on unorthodox models from the economic sciences. The project, which brings together creative designers, policy makers, and stakeholders, focuses on interventions that are aimed at accelerating the sustainable materials transition. We want to determine whether and how heterodox economic models can be used to develop new pathways, or to broaden existing pathways, that will increase the (environmental) impact of biobased solutions.

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‘Consumers are creatures of habit. If we want them to break routine and live sustainably, we have to do more than just offer sustainable alternatives. ’

Estelle Nieuwenkamp is a researcher in the New Marketing research group at the Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Business, and tutor with the Academy for Marketing and Business Management at Avans, Breda.

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‘Our research group investigates the role artists, designers and cultural producers in general can play in developing the aesthetics and poetics of a desirable future.’

Sebastian Olma is professor Cultural and Creative Industries. He works for the Expertise Centre Art, Design and Technology.

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Research Group: Cultural and Creative Industries

The research group Cultural and Creative Industries investigates the role of artists and designers as creative innovators and drivers of social and economic change. Affiliated researchers analyse the cultural and creative industries from a critical point of view and examine the conditions under which timely forms of aesthetic expression and social connectedness can actually take place within the precarious reality of this field. What economic models are required by artists and designers to create a meaningful practice within the aesthetic, social, and economic intentions of the cultural and creative industries? What skills sets are required for those artists and designers who don’t just want to follow movements, but actually shape novel social and economic models of the future?

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