Thursday, March 29, 2007

Skoll Forum on Social Entrepreneurship: Enabling social innovation

This year's forum organized by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship filled the foyer, lecture theatres and seminar rooms of Saïd Business School, as well as much of Oxford, with the energy and buzz of entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers from all over the world. I can't do the event justice here but want to reflect on some things I heard at the events I attended.
- The question of handling uncertainty. How do social entrepreneurs and investors/funders handle risk? Are the tools of corporate finance, grounded in traditional economic rationality, useful for those setting up social based ventures? What can we learn from how 19th century social ventures in sanitation, education and health in the UK, for example, developed into public assets?
- The question of scale. For policy makers who want to support or enable sociallly-based ventures, what are the things that can be exported from one particular context? What can't be replicated even if a regional government really wants to try to support social venture models that work elsewhere?
- The question of design. This year's forum included two sessions on 'Design Thinking' run by Debra Dunn and colleagues from Stanford's d-school who ran workshops in which participants explored ideas of user-centered design and visual, iterative methods of framing problems. Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, and an advocate of "integrative thinking" and "design thinking", chaired the closing panel. How can social entrepeneurs use design methods to frame problems and involve stakeholders in co-design?

Friday, March 23, 2007

A year after the Cox Review: design, management and technology education in the UK

Over 30 people attended a workshop organized jointly with the UK Design Council , held at Saïd Business School on Wednesday 21 March. It brought together many of the people currently involved in forging links in the UK between design education, management/business education and research, both those working within higher education institutions and others from related contexts such as NESTA and regional development agencies. International models such as the Stanford d-school, Zollverein, Chicago's Institute of Design and the Rotman School of Mangement in Toronto provided some of the points of comparison. See this blog set up by the Design Council for a deeper discussion. [Unfortunately having helped organize the event, I was ill with flu and unable to attend so the notes below are based on talking to others and reading the Design Council's report.]

The day started with two provocations proposing contrasting positions on the question as to whether the UK is well placed to achieve economic success through the use of design (the Cox Review, commissioned by the UK Treasury, was concerned primarily about the role of design in economic growth and innovation in the UK). Bruce Tether (Manchester Business School) argued against while Nick Leon (Tanaka Business School) argued for.

Then there were several presentations by speakers from higher education institutions developing different models for multidisciplinary teaching and research. Jeremy Myerson (Royal College of Art) described the college's plans for a new centre called Design London set up jointly with Imperial College and Tanaka Business School, recently awarded funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Bob Young (Northumbria University School of Design) presented Northumbria's plans for a multidisciplinary research lab drawing on their experience with an international summer school programme, and the difficulties of getting academics to work across disciplinary boundaries. Nick Wilson (Kingston University Business School) described Kingston's development of 26 new MA programmes developed by specialist arts and design programmes with modules on the creative industries delivered by the business school. Martin Binks (Nottingham Unversity Institute for Enterprise and Innovation) talked about his school's close working links with small and medium sized enterprises and raised the question of how to achieve multidisciplinary projects with 1000 students, not just 10.

Questions that emerged included
- the intellectual underpinning to these developments
- a desire to hear the details, rather than broad strokes/big pictures
- the differences between design management of the 1980s-1990s and these developments

The Design Council is producing a write-up which is available from Aviv Katz.