Creative solutions for urban challenges

Aarhus University

By Caroline Parkinson, Sector Engagement Executive – Creative Industries

Scotland is a member of the network, Districts of Creativity and through the leadership of the Scottish Government CAN DO department a delegation of creative leaders in Scotland attend their annual forum hosted in one of the 13 member nations. With a delegation of 20 representing Scotland I had the privilege of going to Aarhus in Denmark to hear from some of the world’s leading thinkers in creativity and design, hosted at the University of Aarhus (pictured) and Musikhuset (concert hall) next door.

At Interface we match business needs with academic expertise, and in that vein the CAN DO team asked if I would match the Living Lab theme – ‘How to use creativity to develop cities on the rise’ – to Scottish students who would participate in a Living Lab with 60 international students, and Scottish academics to present their research in this field. Five design students from Scotland attended the Living Lab with their lecturers to tackle Urban Challenges using design thinking tools and heard from IDEO’s Tom Kelley and Google’s Steven Vranakis to develop prototypes to exhibit at the close of the Lab. Four Scottish academics were selected to present two of their research papers from the University of Dundee (DJCAD). A glowing report was received from the Living Lab regarding the Scottish students’ contribution and they felt they had learned a great deal from the week. I attended the six academic presentations and was inspired by all the presentations, but couldn’t help be particularly proud of the Dundee team!

The Creativity World Forum centred on creativity, entrepreneurship and cities. The speakers shared how they used creativity and design to reshape their business for success or even to become a fun place to work to inspire greater ideas, or to be more connected to their customer and their needs. Some shared their inspiration to innovate and how they had invented means to support people, or how they approached societal problems or city issues using design thinking and bringing creativity into the mix. Many of these were intertwined with personal stories which were profoundly moving.

Throughout the two days in conversation with our international delegates we noted how many presentations were threaded with concerns regarding our physical environment such as the rise of corporate architecture shaping the physical shape of our cities in many cases eradicating the traditional architecture of a culture, and how uninspiring or unused these concrete public spaces tended to be, and the need to appreciate the value of beauty and design in shaping our homes, public spaces, offices and physical environment. As well as the need for a better gender balance in society, being human and humane, the value of democracy, caring for the planet and its resources, and building a better future for future generations. It was certainly great brain food, but there was also time to explore Aarhus as we walked from venue to venue or enjoyed the local food market in the evening. As the European Capital of Culture 2017 Aarhus was certainly a fitting place to hold the conference. I would not hesitate to return to the Creativity World Forum, which will be held in Flanders next year. Check it out!

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