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WITH Cape Town having been named as the World Design Capital in 2014, the design community and a healthy mix of academics and NGOs are collaborating to initiate a pioneering design-led project this weekend in Khayelitsha.
“We are expecting a dynamic mix of community stakeholders, government, academia, the business community and the design community,” said dynamic design educator Bruce Snaddon, a senior lecturer in the graphic design department at the faculty of informatics and design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
With a culture of volunteerism active in SA, this project will rely on exactly that. The project leaders’ core philosophy is one of co-design, where the participatory nature of the activity embraces the recognition that the knowledge required for solutions lies within the community itself.
Refreshingly, Creative Cape Town, an innovative programme of the Cape Town Partnership, has finally opened its scope and vision to include Cape Town in its entirety in officially recognising Khayelitsha as the heartbeat of the city.
For too long, Cape Town has solely funded creative projects within the inner city and has a history of motivating cultural and human rights activists to focus on cultural activities only within its bounds – think of the City Hall Sessions, for example.
The creative energy in Khayelitsha is astounding and it is high time that efforts are now focused on a community that has been neglected – from lack of service to lack of art centres and meaningful engagement. However, kudos to the likes of Equal Education and, in this particular scenario, the Social Justice Coalition, which are doing groundbreaking work in these communities.
The coalition is facilitating this new design-led process, which will feature a series of “design storming” sessions in Khayelitsha to move things forward. Farzanah Badsha, the new Creative Cape Town programme manager at the Cape Town Partnership, says these sessions will hopefully be the first of many, and they were being used as a way to refine how the collaboration between designers and community members could work.
“Creative Cape Town took the broad idea of wanting to use design thinking to address social issues to the Design Network, and they proposed the notion of a hack. In conversation with Design Network and the Social Justice Coalition, the idea of a hack was modified to work in the context of a design environment and local needs.”
Snaddon elaborates that hack days were originally created by Yahoo! in 2005, and quickly became an international trend.
“By collaborating on focused tasks during this short period, small groups of hackers are capable of producing remarkable results. Some hack days have a specific focus. The main characteristics of a hack day are that it is fun and easy to participate. No specific commitment is required, apart from the 48-hour engagement. Participation is not remunerated, but incentives and the unusual format itself have proven to attract participation.”
Snaddon passionately believes in using design to make a difference in communities. As a member of the Cape Town Design Network, he says they have a powerful group of “good people who feel very strongly about doing work that benefits communities in need”.
He acknowledges that a network is only as strong as the activity that it generates and that this design storming session is critical to bringing about the network’s vision to recognise design in the city as a key enabler for improving lives.
The design network grew out of the Creative Cape Town Clusters initiative which started in 2008, spurred on by the creative energy of sussed cultural activist Zayd Minty. It provided a platform for networking between dynamic people in Cape Town’s creative industries, and stimulating innovative partnerships for economic and social development.
“Cape Town’s design industry is fragmented, with limited contact across disciplinary lines,” said Snaddon. “Since collaboration is a strength in today’s business climate, the local industry will only grow through us openly sharing information, ideas, resources and energy.
“People involved in design for social upliftment are not scared of rolling up their sleeves and tackling the wicked problems of our times.
“Designing starts with intent and what is happening now is a questioning of the assumption that design is only used for selling to a privileged few.
“This does not mean that practical design solutions are without aesthetic appeal. In fact, at the Social Justice Coalition Ukuyila Ngabantu event in May 2011, there was a plea from a member of the community to ‘please design solutions that do look beautiful’.”
The key purpose of this first design storming session is that by putting appropriate stakeholders together in one space, there is hope for unlocking sustainable solutions to, for example, the problem of refuse in an informal settlement.
This is the first of many similar events in the build-up to 2014, aimed at transforming lives by design, reconnecting communities through infrastructural enhancement, and repositioning the city for the knowledge economy.
l The first design storming session will be held tomorrow and on Sunday from 10am until 5pm at the VPUU Precinct 3 in Harare, Khayelitsha. Follow #designstorming on Twitter. Call the host, the Social Justice Coalition, at 021 361 8160, or e-mail Creative Cape Town/Cape Town Partnership at farzanah@ capetownpartnership.co.za