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Fostering creative citizens through co-design and public makerspaces


Project description

This project seeks to develop a novel and inclusive means of fostering creative citizens in China in a bottom-up manner through strategic use of co-design and public makerspaces. The rationale is that human capital has increasingly become the most important asset of a country and experts argued that the key to sustainable economic growth of a city/country is an ability to attract, nurture and retain a creative workforce. This argument matches the prediction that, in 2020, the top skills employers will be looking for are complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, respectively.  However, this project will go beyond supporting people in paid employments and include as many people as possible, since people outside paid employment could also contribute positively to sustainable economic developments in China. Previous studies show that good use of design could make a significant impact on the creation of social value including individual behaviour changes and societal engagement. Thus, this project will also consider how best design can be used to create greater engagement with citizens to generate societal impact.


One effective way of promoting and fostering creativity is to actively engage people in creative activities such as co-design. Previous studies showed that engaging people in the co-design process not only helps fostering participants’ creativity, but also could lead to many social benefits, such as encourage self-help attitudes. This project intends to foster creative citizens through a novel combination of design interventions, public makerspaces and online design resources. The design interventions will be delivered through co-design projects between designers and community members. The public makerspaces, in this case, refer to physical locations where people gather to co-create, share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build. The emphasis is on offering multipurpose spaces where creative activities can take place, rather than provide high-tech fabrication tools. In this case, online design resources will be provided in a form of the design case study bank, which will act as digital repository of community-generated solutions which could be used as building blocks for future developments. By providing these resources online, they can be shared, modified and utilised by creative communities across China. The online resource will also contain co-design toolkits to support community projects. 

The project spreads across three years. In Year 1, the team will carry out a literature review and case studies to identify good practices of creative communities, as well as identify key requirements regarding public makerspaces in China in order to create suitable strategies. The team will also organise the field trips to take key stakeholders from China to visit selected creative hubs and public makerspaces in the UK in order to give them first-hand experience, opportunities to exchange ideas and inspirations.

In Year 2, the team will develop a prototype of public makerspace in one of the community neighbourhood centres in Yangpu District, Shanghai with an intention to scale up and expand to other areas in China. The team will initiate community co-design projects between local residents and design students from Tongji University to introduce the co-design process to local communities. The processes and outcomes of community projects will be thoroughly evaluated to identify potential impacts from economic and social perspectives.

Key lessons learned will be extracted to develop suitable strategies and action plans for scaling up. Year 3 will concentrate on developing a strategic design framework with suitable guidelines for developing community creative hubs.  The project will constantly engage with and disseminate knowledge to the wider audience through high-quality international publications, suitable social media platform (e.g. WeChat), co-creation activities and public engagement events