Design and the Public Good: Creativity vs. the Procurement Process

In March 2010, the Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group and the Design Business Association undertook an inquiry, building on the findings of the Cox Review of Creativity in Business, to assess the relationship between government and its design providers, and to explore design’s potential to unlock innovation for the public sector. 

The report was launched in the House of Lords

We take the term design in its broadest sense, as a verb rather than a noun, as a set of tools that enables a better way of doing things - whether that means designing effective policy, designing out waste, or designing services that work for users.'

On 2nd March the Associate Parliamentary Group, in partnership with the DBA, launched the findings of its six month inquiry into procurement of design services with a reception and panel discussion in the House of Lords.

Hosted by Baroness Whitaker, co-chair of the inquiry and design enthusiast, attendees were introduced to the findings and recommendations by Deborah Dawton after a welcome from the APDIG by Group Officer Barry Sheerman MP.    

One of the APG’s founding members, 15 years ago, Barry said how pleased he was to see this new direction for the group, commending it as ‘the best way we’ve engaged with the broader design community.’ 

However he called for the design community to be more determined in their lobbying of government, in the mission to bring design to the heart of public life, saying that new thinking was never more welcome than now, with the dual political challenges of financial constraints and climactic change.

“Through this report we’ve engaged some of the leading people in design, engaged parliamentarians from all parties. But the coming election poses a real challenge. The composition of the house will be changed fundamentally. Design is at the very heart of most of what we do as civilised human beings, and we’ve got to engage the people who run this country in a more meaningful way. 

The DBA and the Design Council and the APDIG are part of that, but together we’ve got to be greater than the sum of the parts.

I challenge the design community to do better: because, I’m afraid to say, often the design community are pathetic at lobbying. There is nothing wrong with giving people in public life a really hard time. Especially if they think that design is just some nice add-on at the end of a process. 

Design is at the heart of everything we should be doing as a modern, progressive, innovative society.

This isn’t just a nice lunch. Make this the day that you devote your energies even more to spreading the importance of good design at the heart of public life.“

Following Barry's rousing speech, the 120 assembled design industry professionals were given the oppportunity to question the inquiry's steering group on the report's 10 recommendations through a q&a session.

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