Our visit to Rwanda is now over, which we have documented in detail on our Rwanda Design blog. This provides the background and detail of our visit. However, below is an edited version of our blog entry that details the provisional outcomes.
We view design as the process that implements innovation – that harnesses the resources, strengths and creative potential of Rwanda to generate new products and services for new markets, that creates employment and stimulates new business development. Furthermore, it has the potential to make visible the distinctive identity and culture of Rwanda, and to develop the skills, knowledge and tools to solve problems in the commercial and social spheres. Economic development and social innovation need to go hand-in-hand through a considered design strategy.
So, our first proposal is the need to define a strategic policy for design in Rwanda that integrates four issues: (1) the need for industry to recognise and use design to add value, identify niche opportunities and progress the ambitions and objectives of manufacturers and service providers (of various sizes); (2) to fully exploit new technologies, innovations and areas of potential productive growth that are distinctive to Rwanda – such as some of the research we have seen on new textile materials; (3) to rapidly build the skills and knowledge needed to apply design through new education initiatives and programmes; (4) to ensure that design education and practice reflects and reinforces the entrepreneurial ethos that the country recognises as essential to its future development.
Next, we are proposing the establishment of a Design Innovation Centre that can act as a resource for new businesses, a consultancy function for industry, a prototyping facility for designers, co-ops and manufacturers, and a teaching centre for short courses, professional development and degree students. Essentially its a physical space where clothing co-ops could go for design advice, where manufacturers and others would have access to digital printing facilities, where design workshops would be run, and where design students would be tutored in certain processes, and where student design interns from Dundee (and elsewhere) would work on particular projects. At the start it would focus on textiles, but we envisage its development into other design areas once the Centre had been established.
Third, we are working with two higher education institutions in developing helping to develop degree programmes in design. In one case we have begun work on planning a four year degree course in textile design. Now clearly a key issue here is that of a shortage of expertise to deliver design courses, so on our return we will be looking for recent graduates and others with the skills, the energy and the ambition to help propel Rwanda’s design onto another level.
Fourth, we are investigating a Design Connection initiative. This involves identifying design mentors in Europe and elsewhere who would be prepared to be partnered with co-operatives and others to help them develop and refine new products and services. It would also involve student projects and competitions that address design challenges in Rwanda.
The task ahead of us involves adding all the detail to these broad aims, gaining the funding and finding individuals with the commitment to work with us on aspects of it. So, if you have the skills, the energy and the courage to make a real design difference in a country that still dares to dream – then we’d like to hear from you.