PDR Head of Design Policy, Dr. Anna Whicher (left) listens as workshop participants Dr. Denise Charles of the Ministry of Education; Andrea Wells of the National Cultural Foundation; fashion designer, Pauline Bellamy and Simone Davis of Designs Coast, share their suggestions. (Photo: BIDC)

The Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) is the sole government agency with a design mandate. Its Design Unit is tasked with several responsibilities, including raising the awareness of the importance of design and increasing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in local, regional and international markets, via design interventions.

Given these responsibilities, the BIDC has committed to the various ways Barbados can benefit from a well-defined and reinforced design economy.  

In the United Kingdom, “the design economy generated £85.2 billion in gross value added” in 2016, according to the report The Design Economy 2018 – The State of Design in the UK, published by the UK Design Council.

In the United States, the “arts and cultural sector (which includes design) contributed $804.2 billion or 4.3 per cent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016”, according to their National Endowment for the Arts.

What can design do for Barbados? In pursuit of such answers and opportunities, the BIDC has engaged the International Centre for Design and Research (PDR), a department at Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, to facilitate the mapping of Barbados’ design ecosystem and design policy development.

This commitment was cemented with a National Design Mapping and Policy Workshop, which took place on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 in Bagnall’s Gallery, Pelican Centre. 

The workshop was led by Head of Design Policy at PDR, Dr. Anna Whicher, who has well-documented, international experience in the fields of design mapping, policy, and action plan development.

While in Barbados, Dr. Whicher was assisted by Project Manager, Design and Innovation Policy at PDR, Piotr Swiatek.  The workshop opened with a presentation on design and innovation, and then proceeded with three thought-provoking group exercises – mapping the design ecosystem of Barbados; examining the strengths and weakness; and developing policy concepts for Barbados’ first design policy.

Stakeholders were selected according to criteria taken from PDR’s proprietary methodology for mapping design ecosystems.  

The PDR consultants and the BIDC Design Team: Dr. Anna Whicher, PDR; Stella Hackett, BIDC; Piotr Swiatek, PDR; Paul Massiah and Philip Marshall, BIDC. (Photo: BIDC)

Consequently, invaluable insights and ideas were captured from a dynamic group of 23 attendees with various roles, perspectives and voices – designers; local businesses; business support and promotion agencies; education and training professionals; the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology and the Office of Research and Innovation at the University of the West Indies; and funding agencies.

The resounding takeaway from the workshop was the consensus that, beyond the need for design policy, is the desire to see design included in other national policies.

Additionally, stakeholders proposed, for example, that design thinking be introduced more broadly across the island (from schools to government organizations) and acknowledged that “the relevance of design in ‘non-creative’ sectors is sorely underestimated”.

The consultants have since returned to the United Kingdom, however, they will submit a report including recommendations for short-term and long-term actions necessary to establish and implement a national design action plan.

BIDC’s Manager – Design, Stella Hackett, who initiated the consultation, believes that the mapping of our nation’s design ecosystem could yield substantial long-term outcomes, with strategic benefits at corporate and national levels, such as improved business performance and increased foreign exchange earnings.  

When a business views design as integral, it is twice more likely to see rapid growth than others.  “Design can have a positive effect on all business performance indicators, from turnover and profit to market share and competitiveness” (UK Design Council, 2007).  

Furthermore, design can stimulate and supplement innovation in Barbados.  Internationally, it has already been recognized as a driver for innovation. For further information about the project, contact Ms. Hackett at 427-5350, or email the BIDC at bidc@bidc.org

Barbados Investment and Development Corporation

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