UKDA debates funding threat to regional design forums

UK Design Alliance has endeavoured to strengthen the relationship with its regional design forums despite its sole source of funding, the Design Council, facing an uncertain future.

Regional forum member groups met at the alliance’s annual general meeting last week where they looked at how to be more connected, yet accepted that each organisation will need to be more entrepreneurial in order to secure private funding.

The UKDA is a partnership of more than 20 national and regional design organisations looking to promote and invest in design and the development of skills.
Peter Spence, from the South Coast Design Forum, spoke at the event and presented results on how the networks will need to adjust for the future.

Funding will only be available to regions in the North, according to Spence, who says, ’There won’t be anything for London or the South East. We’ll have to replace it with revenue from our own activities and membership.’

Spence acknowledges the uncertainty of the coming year, and says, ’Funding is likely to be withdrawn in the main.’ He reports that as the network is shored up by volunteers, many of them are in ’survival mode’ and needing to look out for their own personal business interests. ’That came through loud and clear,’ says Spence.

The alliance’s potential remains huge for Spence, but he says that the regional bodies are in danger of becoming disenfranchised as the alliance becomes more autonomous from the Design Council and the work of the Chartered Society of Designers, the Design Business Association and British Design Innovation, which ’don’t show enthusiasm for the design alliances’, says Spence.

Another insider, Roger Proctor from the South West Design Forum, observes that ’changes in the regional infrastructure are inevitable’, but says this ’represents a huge opportunity’, despite the Design Council possibly facing the axe.

’The Design Council, the alliance and the whole network can show the Government that they have a good story – the vision to deliver a return on projects through collaboration and a return against more jobs, ideas, patents and business,’ says Proctor.

To encourage collaboration across the UK Design Alliance and to give the regional bodies a greater presence, Proctor’s own solution would be to rebrand the regional forums as ’regional design councils’.
He says, ’We must maintain the localism of our networks while trying to ensure the delivery of more important national matters for the future of our industry and the economy.’

UK Design Alliance
The UK Design Alliance rebranded from the UK Design & Skills Alliance in June this year

A new alliance advisory board chairman, David Worthington, was elected at the same time, as the organisation sought to recalibrate and relaunch. He replaced Jonathan Sands

Worthington spoke about connecting the regional networks, but also working on key projects with schools, universities and industry

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  • Maxine Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Collaboration and knowledge share is great – we at BDI base our entire business model on it and always have.
    We do not lack enthusiasm for the UKDA per se. The national trade and professional bodies who operate and always have, on a paid membership basis, raised concerns that an alternative model that operates entirely on public sector funding would not be sustainable and could in fact inadvertently undermine the private sector models.

    If those concerns (unaddressed) come home to roost as SCDF and SWDF are stating, our concerns were justified.

    Roger’s idea that regional forums be re-branded as Regional Design Councils (presumably funded by the DC and or with their blessing?) may or may not be a reasonable idea.

    However, if all services provided are free to all, should the DC be axed (I don’t believe it will be nor should be) then the whole infrastructure comes tumbling down and far from strengthening the design industry, it weakens it possible beyond repair.

    The UKDA ought to have worked with the national bodies – that exist without public funding – to establish a sustainable model from the outset that could work for all parties concerned.
    We remain open to that discussion.

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