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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