As I develop a draft concept document on a new iSummit in South Africa next year, I’m looking around at cool events to draw inspiration from, and perhaps form partnerships with. The International Development Design Summit is one such event which will be hosted next year in Ghana (as part of the Maker Faire Africa concept being spoken about on Ned).
This is a great event because it seems to be:
1. Interdisciplinary – ‘we believe that innovation thrives in the intersections of disciplines that come from bringing together such an eclectic group’
2. Focuses on doing rather than talking – ‘we emphasize the development of prototypes, not papers and proceedings’
3. Demonstrates co-creation in action – ‘It is our goal to demonstrate a model where a user-based community of active, creative designers can invent, innovate and inspire each other to create new technologies’
It’s great that the group has hit on the key issue that the open source/open content revolution inspired:
In the traditional model of development, communities receive donated technology, and while they may be trained in how to maintain and repair the technology, they are rarely taught or encouraged to evolve the technology and adapt it to their needs.
And it’s for this reason why it’s a little sad that they’ve fallen into another ‘traditional model of development’ trap: that innovation for ‘development’ is only about electric generators and HIV/AIDS projects, and not also about projects to get musicians to market their music, artist collectives to build innovative public art projects or interactive games that are about communities doing nothing more than finding a way to have fun together.
It looks like there is some will for Maker Faire Africa to involve artists in ‘fabrication conversations… as well as (to) create relaxed times and spaces for networking’ – but I know that this really has to be central to the concept – otherwise artists end up being the background music, decorating the space, rather than key participants to innovation challenges.
I’m thinking that for the iSummit next year we really need to make the connection between artists/creators and technologists/builders a central focus. I’ve had visions of things like an open day where artists come with their challenges (marketing their work online, building fun projects using technology, creating public art using public domain footage) and work on prototypes for projects with interdisciplinary teams who are then funded to bring the concepts to market.
Or building the entire event around a week-long prototype-building affair, where we fund, say, 10 ‘Innovation challenges’ and their development over a period of time. There would be a closed workshop for the 50 or so participants to come together, learn about prototyping and creative techniques, intellectual property management etc and then build their own prototype solutions to the Innovation challenges. In the weekend after the workshop, there’d be a festival, open to the public, in which participants could conduct ‘reverse-engineering’ workshops where they could show how they designed their particular solution – as well as some simple workshops around learning specific skills.
We could get big names to sponsor relevant ‘Innovation challenge’ prizes and involve universities, technikons and schools around the world.
Ok, now I’m getting really excited, but will have to chew on this a while. And would love to know what you all think!