Design Innovation and Land-Assets: Towards New Thinking & Communities

Lead Research Organisation: Glasgow School of Art
Department Name: The Innovation School


The Design Innovation and Land Assets (DI&L) FoF project will connect academics, designers, artists, rural sustainability experts, human geographers, cultural policy workers and community groups. The contextually located programme will focus on the articulation of island communities shared land assets and use in relation to social, cultural, economic (including non-monetary economic) factors and associated wellbeing domains. The programme will comprise of a series of site specific co design workshops in Orkney, Shetland and Mull. The triangulation of insights from the three island contexts will in turn inform decision-making, for example, regarding the repopulation of Ulva, which is now in community ownership. Through sharing participatory and co-design methods, island communities will be equipped with the skills to transform their decision-making practices as well as their approaches to governance.

The proposed DI&L team from the GSA's Innovation School comprises of Professor Lynn-Sayers McHattie as Principal Investigator, DI&L Co-Investigator Dr Brian Dixon, University of Ulster continuing in the role of Co-Investigator with Elio Caccavale, GSA Reader in Transdisciplinary Design joining the team as a specialist researcher. Prof. McHattie has extensive experience of directing and delivering UKRI projects, including AHRC funded projects; Dr Dixon has expertise in practice-based research methodologies, as well as the theoretical linkages between design and place; Elio Caccavale's work at the intersection of design and science explores the relations between humans, nature and landscape. A Research Assistant will also be recruited to support the team. DI&L will be enhanced with the inclusion of Project Partners Chris Fremantle, Saoirse Higgins and Dr Katherine Champion who each respectively hold expertise in: ecological theory and practice; art ecology and the Anthropocene; and cultural policy formation. Beyond this, Graeme Howell, Shetland Arts Development Agency and Carol Dunbar, Pier Arts Centre will join as Project Partners - the PI has long standing relationships with both organisations. The PI and Dr Anna Hicks of AHRC funded Landscapes of the Mind Network have identified synergies across their respective projects, particularly related to Orkney, and Dr Hicks will also join the DI&L team as a Project Partner. All Project Partners have issued Letters of Support and confirmed "in kind" contribution to the DI&L programme. Further stakeholders will include Mull & Iona Community Trust, Scottish Government representatives and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

DI&L FoF will take place over the course of 18 months, commencing 1st February 2020 in parallel with and building on the DI&L Network and will involve three inter-related phases: scoping and planning; delivery; and evaluation. A series of co design workshops will investigate how design innovation principles and practices can provide more holistic approaches to support effective, embodied and experiential insights into land-use decisions that reflect the diverse environmental and historical assets of indigenous island communities. A further workshop will develop a call for a Special Issue of CoDesign Journal on Land Assets, supported by Professor Janet McDonnell Editor in Chief CoDesign. The programme will conclude with a DI&L symposium in May 2021, which will simultaneously draw together, evaluate and disseminate the insights and findings. Impact beyond academia will be an embedded component within the project, in the sense that real issues will be explored in the workshops with community members and activists. Dissemination of the project will occur through the production of a publication/report, visual assets (videos and photography) to be distributed both physically and digitally amongst all partners, relevant regional and international policy-makers and wider publics.

Planned Impact

Impact Objectives
- to bring people and communities together around the exploration of land assets and use, identifying a collective set of actions and working to build capacity as a "community of practice";
- to mobilise creative agency and creative action in indigenous island communities that will in turn inform policy beyond the traditional policy silos through valuing enrichment and enhancing wellbeing;
- to conduct ongoing DI&L evidence-based research, both in the creative engagement approaches and through evaluation, that clearly defines the difference the DI&L FoF has made to island communities;
- to disseminate DI&L insights and findings through as many relevant channels/platforms as possible to ensure wider publics, both nationally and internationally, may access DI&L outcomes and apply these in their own contexts.

It is expected that DI&L will have real impact for island communities through providing enhanced creativity, new learning/understanding and improved wellbeing. With regards to island communities' creativity, it is expected that new enhanced practices through artefactual outcomes (i.e., mappings/three-dimensional models) relating to the local and regional landscape will be produced in the co design workshops. With regards to new learning/understanding, two key benefits are foreseen. First, participants will be introduced to co design tools and processes as well as equipped with the skills to replicate their production and reapply them towards enhancing their ways of working. Second, it is expected through exposure to the workshop processes, groups will acquire enhanced decision-making capabilities, supporting further local and regional governance and planning initiatives. With regards to wellbeing, it is expected that participation in the co design workshops will provide individuals with a deepened sense of the value and potential of local and regional landscapes as well as the environmental, historical and cultural assets contained therein. Additionally, through the articulation and sharing of wider regional convergences and divergences within the workshops, it is expected that an enhanced regional identity and understanding will be seeded for the mutual benefit of island communities.

This programme will result in new pathways to impact by engaging with audiences across disciplinary boundaries, including the Arts & Humanities, Health and Environmental Humanities and Human Geography through exploring decision-making related to landscape, land-use and land assets in the island archipelagos of Orkney, Shetland and Mull. Beyond the immediate communities, non-academic parties with an interest in land-use decision-making include the Scottish Government and its associated agencies, for example, the Land Commission. At a national level, this will extend to connecting with the Landscape Decisions Programme Coordination Team to identify synergies and mutual beneficiaries, for example, with The Landscapes of the Mind research programme. It is expected that the research will contribute to policy formation on two fronts. First, through the establishment of regional, grassroots channels leading from the local to the national level. Second, through direct advocacy with DI&L Project Partners and policy experts including Dr Katherine Champion and Peter McColl who are both contributors to the DI&L Network.

As noted in the above impact objectives, the wider national and international dissemination of the programme's insights and recommendations, with a view to further extending impact, will be a core, ongoing concern. At a national level, this will be enabled by the embedded knowledge exchange and dissemination activities such as the Final Symposium and attendance at events such as the Land Commission conferences. Wider, non-academic dissemination will be enabled through the final report and website supporting island communities seeking to achieve enhanced creative agency through a "meshworks" approach.


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Description The overarching aim of DI&L was to explore how a cross-disciplinary Design-led Innovation practice in collaboration with practitioners, academics, policy makers, and community land stakeholders in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland supported the development of a land-asset decision-making framework. In doing so, the DI&L research team fulfilled the award objectives through: convening partners and stakeholders to carry out a scoping and mapping of innovation challenges in community land ownership including the legalities of land reform and relevant political traditions and how these can inform land-asset decision making; consulting with communities in the Northern and Western Isles how land is valued, including articulating convergences and divergences located within wider indigenous island socio-cultural and heritage contexts; critically reflecting on DI&L's creative and design-led innovation and hybrid approaches to deepen understanding of the ways that landscapes evolve to inform decision making around affective and experiential aspects of island archipelagos culture, environment and heritage. The research approach was framed around virtual and hybrid engagement, co-design and dissemination. This has enabled the DI&L team to capture insights, which aggregate nuanced perspectives, ambitions, and ideas surrounding land-assets and landscape decision-making. Informed by design-led innovation, the land-assets decision-making framework offers a set of interconnecting viewpoints in relation to social, cultural and economic domains. The process underpinning the framework has allowed for a more dialogic and inclusive decision-making process to be enacted, with key assets and priorities being identified and co-designed by stakeholder groups.
Exploitation Route Through co-creating a land-asset decision-making framework, report and website highlighting and disseminating the findings and outcomes towards enhancing their transferability, knowledge exchange and enabling their reapplication within indigenous island communities.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The DI&L programme focused on the articulation of island communities shared "land-assets" and use in relation to social, cultural, economic factors and associated wellbeing domains. Early impact resides in sharing design-led innovation approaches and co-design methods to equip island communities with the skills to transform their decision-making practices at both local and national scales. Dialogue with communities is critical - whilst community-based organisations may excel in sharing information transparently and ensuring that communities can understand how decisions are made - the emphasis to substantially impact communities include reciprocity, exchange and action for communities to influence policy. In small island communities, transitory spaces within the land can function as more visible and inclusive venues for stimulating, sustaining and extending such influence in democratic decision-making. There are ample opportunities for communities to become involved in landscape decision-making at a local level, and organisations such as the Scottish Land Commission are interlinked with Community Land Scotland and feed local views into regional and national debates. Pathways to impact lie in making communities aware of the opportunities to influence policy at this scale and building their capacity to engage within these structures. Accordingly, the Scottish Land Commission is exploring the potential of the land-asset decision-making framework to inform their community landownership strategy. An important aspect is the integration of this co-created framework with extant frameworks, structures and models. The land-asset decision-making framework functions as a structure to aggregate pre-existing decision-making frameworks in this area, which may be qualitative in nature, for example, Shetland Arts Development Agency's Social Outcomes Framework. Beyond DI&L, Design Innovation for New Growth (2017-2019) developed design-led innovation practices and capability among creative practitioners in the Highlands & Islands stimulating critical exchange on the concepts of "fractal" growth, pluralities of value and alternative economies. As such, this work can be positioned as a key reference for practitioners and communities seeking to enact design-led innovation processes that empower communities and engender sustainable change.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Creative Futures - Re-imagining creative education and digital learning in Shetland through collaborative creative practice
Amount £75,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2436897 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2020 
End 02/2024
Description Design Innovation & Cultural Resonances (Resonance): Place based Collaboration
Amount £100,809 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/W009080/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2022 
End 01/2023
Title A Hybrid Method 
Description DI&L followed a transdisciplinary approach grounded in the practice of Design-led Innovation. Design-led Innovation can be described as the successful creative engagement with people and communities that promotes collaborative ways of working as the means by which new knowledge is generated, shared and applied in practice. Methodologically, we endeavour to pay attention to: the situated contexts of our work; asset valuing; mutual learning; reflexivity (rigour through self-examination); emergence (of insights, consequences, actions); community empowerment; self-actualisation; building sustainable capacity; and insights for the long term (policy). DI&L developed a hybrid approach blending in-person insights from project partners and practitioners located in island communities with digital and distributed methods, tools and techniques. Hybrid methods enable diverse people and communities to coalesce and to stimulate dialogue within distinct contexts at different scales. Creative and participatory approaches mediate cultural, geographic and technological barriers to engagement towards capturing insights and outcomes that address complex social and cultural challenges pertaining to land-decisions. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Hybrid methods that seek to strengthen community resilience at the hyperlocal scale can often lead to immediate impact (Manzini, 2020). Pathways to impact include cultivating a network of sustainable relationships that could evolve into hybrid "communities of place", which contribute to and support communities approaches to land-assets, land use and democratic decision-making. 
Description Shetland Arts Development Agency 
Organisation Shetland Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The PI has worked extensively with Shetland Arts Development Agency (SADA) and Graeme Howell, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) over the last eight years. The collaboration with SADA acts as a fulcrum to collaborate with wider stakeholders from: Shetland Community Planning Partnership; The Centre for Island Creativity; The Shetland Island Council; The Shetland Amenity Trust; Shetland Local Authority - Economic Development Department; Highlands & Islands Enterprise; and Creative Scotland.
Collaborator Contribution The PI in collaboration with SADA have co-designed approaches to support creative practitioners and the wider cultural economy in Shetland aligned to SADA's Social Outcomes Framework.
Impact AHRC Funding AH/W009080/1
Start Year 2020
Description Shetland Arts Development Agency (SADA) 
Organisation Shetland Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Resonance foregrounds KE and translational research to connect local communities with design-led innovation relevant to place-based capacity building. The series of co-design workshops will enable the development of place-based collaborations and innovation capability towards embedding wider socio-cultural impacts at a regional scale.
Collaborator Contribution Co-design methods and tools.
Impact Workshops and Events Impact-films and Screenings Academic Journal Articles
Start Year 2013
Description Stravaig 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Stravaig - July 2021 - DI&L engaged with people, practitioners and community-led organisations in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland, specifically the Western and Northern Isles to explore individual and collective relationships to land, opportunities for hyper-local decision-making and the priorities needed to support communities at local, regional, and national levels. The Summer Stravaig - a two-week immersive digital and distributed symposia and showcase - allowed for extensive creative engagement with communities and stakeholders including those involved in design, policy, environmental ecology and heritage. DI&L Project Partners Prof. Frank Rennie, Chris Fremantle and Dr Katherine Champion chaired sessions on land in Scotland, land-use and cultural assets, whilst Dr Saoirse Higgins and Graeme Howell, Shetland Arts Development Agency contributed insights into the 'lived experience' of island communities. Further presenters included Carey Doyle of Community Land Scotland, Finlay MacLennan from Community Land Outer Hebrides and Morven Gibson from the Southwest Mull and Iona Development Trust. International contributors extended to: James Oliver the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) Australia; Dr. Nicola St John and Dr. Yoko Akama (RMIT); Professor Davide Fassi and Professor Ezio Manzini Politecnico Milan, Italy; and Liesbeth Huybrechts Hassalt University, Belgium. The Stravaig traced themes of: Land in Scotland; Cultural Assets; Dialogue; Policy & Governance; Design for Reimagining Communities; Hope & the Future; and Frameworks for Decision Making; concluding with a final Plenary. The Stravaig created opportunities for a distributed network of communities, activists, practitioners, researchers, Post Graduate Research students, stakeholders and policymakers to exchange "lived experiences" of landscape, participation and practice to generate insights, approaches, and collectives towards "reimagining communities". The Stravaig advanced multi-disciplinary discourses through exploring diverse heritage and cultural values within island archipelagos in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland and the role design innovation plays in enhancing decision-making in relation to landscape, land-use and land assets. This presented a timely opportunity to explore how notions of democracy, governance, ownership and empowerment are understood in relation to land in Scotland; how these can be integrated into advancing "political agency"; how communities become aware of the opportunities policy affords; and how policy can be enacted to benefit communities, such as, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and other supporting land reform policies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021