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“Designing a brave post-COVID world” is the pertinent theme of this year’s #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL 2021, from 20-23 September 2021

Lelemba Phiri (Africa Trust GroupIt is resoundingly clear that we need to act in very meaningful ways to address the issues that face us as a nation, and a planet. But we are also drowning in opinions masquerading as facts; not to mention the politics.

Enter the fourth annual #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL, a local public event that consciously gathers together a diverse range of people, who may not often or easily come together, to have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations about South Africa’s biggest challenges. Secondly, the festival aims to support South African innovators and entrepreneurs to action their solutions to these issues.

This year’s #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL runs from 20 – 23 September 2021, and takes participants on a deep dive into the major fault lines in South Africa – brutally exposed by the impact of COVID-19 – in order to stimulate ideas and action that result in inclusion and change.

Private sector businesses, communities, designers, thinkers, do-ers, visionaries and policy makers from across the country and beyond are invited to participate in this collaborative public event. The “unconference” style of this year’s festival allows for small physical gatherings and site visits, online conversations, and facilitated design thinking sprints, all aimed at supporting local innovators to start to bed down their ideas. The event’s sessions will be streamed live, and most are free, and this will run alongside small group participation located at The Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River, Cape Town. Seating in venue is limited, with strict COVID-19 protocols.

The annual festival is an initiative of the Mission Network of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa, in collaboration with the Craft and Design Institute (CDI). With a broad theme of “Designing a brave post-COVID world”, the underpinning question of the programme is: “How might we design solutions for increased inclusivity and access?”

“We aim to explore these pressing challenges experienced by South Africans, but also, and importantly, showcase the application of innovation and design-led approaches to serve as inspiration,” explains Sebastiaan Messerschmidt, Consul General at the Netherlands Consulate General in Cape Town. “This, we hope, will spark many more new ideas. Connecting it all is design; we want to stimulate the design of better systems, products and services,” Messerschmidt concludes.

Consul General

The 2021 festival draws on a range of experts and pioneering innovators in their respective fields who have provided guidance and input into form and content. The programme for this year’s festival has been in development since March 2021, through the CDI’s monthly Creative Exchange programme. These exchanges have served to start the conversation and exploration of very complex issues and have thrown up the need for more detailed, focused discussions over the four days of the festival.

The programme is structured against four key topic pillars: Our economy, our healthcare system, our food system, and our water and sanitation systems. Particular focus is on inclusive digital innovation and creative solutions.

The last #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL was held in February 2020, just as the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding. Pre-pandemic, the 2020 festival’s discussions revolved around a context of a global climate emergency, rising nationalism and the deepening divide between rich and poor alongside South Africa’s own emergencies of a stagnant economy, youth unemployment and rampant corruption.

This year’s festival must consider the impact and implications of the pandemic. COVID-19 has further exposed the fault lines of South Africa for all to see and made hugely visible the inadequacies and inefficiencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare so many of our challenges as a country. If we can start with understanding and processing, we can find new ways of designing solutions together that will lead to better access and real change,” states Erica Elk, Group CEO of CDI.

This year, the festival will also incorporate the launch of the RE:SOLVE Design Innovation Challenge and its Call for Entry. This is an eight-month programme to fast-track local innovation is driven by the CDI, with funding from the City of Cape Town. It will also offer R200 000 in total grant funding to kickstart selected innovations.

All proceeds from ticket sales will go to non-profit organisations working to solve the festival’s four pillar challenges in South Africa.

Book here to secure your place at the online event and to book for an in-venue seat: