Get involved in championing design in the public sector

There’s a debate going on in high places that demands input from the design community at large. It is the thorny issue of public procurement of design.

There is a real will in organisations as diverse as the Design Council and Parliament to improve design buying within the public sector and to use design more effectively to improve services and communications – creating a lucrative seam of work for design groups in the process. There is also cash available to fund ‘innovation’, which surely encompasses design.

Yet the message isn’t filtering through. On the one hand, local government bodies aren’t consistent in their approach to design, with many just not getting it. On the other, it is hard for the design community to flush out funds from often badly communicated sources that offer money for specific projects, say, but which are risk-averse.

These issues emerged yesterday, at a meeting of design activists, convened by the Associate Parliamentary Group for Design and Innovation, which looked at the pros and cons of the Government’s support for the UK design sector. It became clear during the course of proceedings that the design community has as important a role to play as Government has in communicating the creative cause to public-sector clients.

Several key areas emerged in the APGDI debate. These include how the flow of funding to consultancies and for projects might be better managed; the old chestnut of language, where business speak meets political jargon; the need for all parties to appreciate the value of intellectual property; and the issue of innovation, given the emergence of college groups as challengers to consultancies.

The public sector is vital to design, not just as a source of work at a time when commercial clients are struggling, but as an opportunity to have a positive impact on social concerns. So how can design best help to increase awareness of its value? E-mail your ideas on these issues to me at to enter the debate.

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