At the recent International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR) 2019 Conference, four members of Transformation North West, Jess and Laura from Lancaster and Gemma and Janett from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) ran a workshop to open up the TNW design charter to other PhD students around the UK and the world. The whole TNW cohort collectively wrote a charter in July 2018 that aimed to evolve doctoral design research and respond to current social, economic and environmental challenges. (Read the whole charter here)
The conference was held at MMU and took place between the 2nd and 5th September. The theme of the conference was “Design Revolutions”, in which the organisers wanted to “explore how design drives and responds to revolutionary thinking through questioning the norm, probing the now and embracing the new.” We felt that our Charter was the ideal place to start responding to the conference theme.
The workshop was open to PhD researchers and supervisors and was attended by PhD researchers and academics from the UK and international institutions. Overall, the aim of the workshop was to collectively create statements that feed into a collective doctoral design charter for the IASDR19 conference. Together, we would write statements that challenged and stated future action based on three key themes –
Knowledge – Design fosters knowledge and skills, both cognitive and embodied. We must recognise that skills are not only taught but acquired in everyday contexts. How can we access the collective knowledge of communities of individuals and business?
People – Design and creativity can enable engagement of people and generate value throughout the region, including people and places who are often overlooked. What can we as PhD design researchers do to empower and enliven communities and individuals, and how can we approach them?
Connections – The provision of infrastructure forms, facilitates and sustains connections within and between communities. How can we ensure resilience through design?
We began by inviting the participants to familiarise themselves with the TNW Charter using an ‘evidence safari’ method, inspired by the work of Policy Lab. We displayed pieces of the charter around the room to help them digest the information before carrying out an interactive speed networking session.
Using a large scale venn diagram template, participants were invited to position themselves within (or outside of) the key themes according to their PhD research area. The majority of which demonstrated research areas that sit within crossovers. The purpose of this activity was to establish the interests, concerns and developing expertise in the room before proceeding onto deeper discussions.
We then moved on to aligning ourselves with the different areas of the charter knowledge, people, connections and the participants went round the tables adding their answers to questions around each theme. This prompted discussions around the themes and enabled every participant to give their own views. We then used a simple voting system of questions and statements made highlighted key areas for concern in terms of doctoral design research and its current challenges.
Some key themes arising from discussions:
- Engaging with different groups of people is central to the doctoral design research of the participants in the room.
- Many of the statements in theme of knowledge pointed towards design’s ability to bring people together to share and visualise knowledge.
- There was tension between the desire and push to be ‘bold’ as doctoral researchers whilst acknowledging that innovation (a difficult term for everyone to align with) and change could be small and incremental whilst still radical.
- Workshop participants called for doctoral design research to retain its humility and continue to add value to different contexts.
We have included the doctoral design manifesto as produced in the workshop below. We will share this with the wider TNW cohort and will share it at future collaborative TNW events. We invite further thoughts from the workshop participants with a view to transform this charter into a future research paper. If you would like to discuss this with us, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tnw_2017
Our ISADR Collective Doctoral Design Charter
Key – Themes from our workshop are highlighted in various colours to indicate the theme:
- Doctoral research
- be bold
- be reciprocal
- facilitate mutual exchange
- have integrity
- have humility
To achieve this we pledge to:
- create meaningful collaboration
- make ourselves accessible
- recognise that small is radical
- be sensitive
- more conversation
- more engagement in activities within and outside of research
- greater knowledge exchange and awareness
- good supportive supervision
- to solve problems through collaboration
- diverse system of infrastructure
- realistic expectations
- recognition of the power of incremental change