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CAKE 38 - Responsible Innovation

CAKE. Overview.

CAKE stands for Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange. These are monthly events delivered as part of Creative Fuse North East, with the purpose of:

  • Providing an accessible platform to bring together academics and non-academics from the North East region and beyond.
  • Place to have constructive debates centred on key themes. Enabling cross-sector and inter-disciplinary sharing of knowledge, ideas and expertise.
  • Opportunities to build networks around an area of knowledge, a subject of interest, or a particular challenge.

CAKE. Northumbria Style

What should a Northumbria University CAKE experience involve?

Demonstrate the approach of the design innovation team at Northumbria School of Design: applying creative thinking to stubborn and complex situations, to shake off constraints, shift perspectives and inspire new thinking. Our mission is to help others build the creative confidence to suggest and effect positive change within their circle of influence, and this should be woven into how the event is produced and delivered.

Enable knowledge exchange in practice. This has developed as an important research focus and delivering a CAKE event gave us the opportunity to put our thinking into practice. The design of the event was very much driven by seeing attendees as stakeholders, respecting their worlds, whilst ensuring they each can engage in the debate in an inclusive way. Crucial principles include using shared language, stimulating productive yet critical discourse, and creating a level platform where attendees feel valued and confident to contribute.

Our Recipe for CAKE

Event Theme: Responsible innovation

Responsible innovation is central to our research. It provides us with a critical perspective to challenge and interrogate ideas, and to collaboratively envision new directions for positive change. Responsible innovation is about not only understanding the positive benefits of change, but also comprehending the potential for unintended consequences of change. In simple terms, we think of it as "innovation with a social conscience".

Panel Speakers

We know that carefully framed provocations can create open and productive debate. We felt that the expert speakers would be best positioned to introduce different perspectives on Responsible Innovation and what it means in their worlds. So, rather than presentations, we adapted the format and asked our expert panel to introduce themselves, explain what Responsible Innovation means to them, and each give a provocation in the form of something they would like to abolish.

Language & Structure

We used inclusive and accessible language that transcends the boundaries of various disciplines and sectors, to facilitate open exchange of knowledge and ideas in a collaborative environment. In this process we carefully avoided discipline-specific terms and jargon – a reflective process in itself – in favour of clearer vocabulary.

We adapted the event structure to support an environment for reciprocal discussion; for constructive critical thinking and for positive debate. This involved re-imagining the role of the panel speakers as provocateurs, but also in re-designing the breakout rooms to include our expert design-led facilitation techniques.People & loudspeakers Illustration

Outcome & Reflections

What does success look like?

Our criteria for success:

  • To introduce Responsible Innovation in an accessible way that is relevant to a varied audience, meaningfully exploring what this theme means to all attendees.
  • We were keen to offer people in our network, whose work we recognise as being particularly impactful in terms of Responsible Innovation, an opportunity to contribute and share their work.
  • It was also important for the design innovation team to showcase their approach to stimulating and supporting rich and insightful debate, using their creative expertise.
  • And finally, where the event execution is slick, attention is paid to getting the details right, and it all runs like clockwork.

Why do we think it was successful?

The panel speakers were excellent. We believe this is in part due to the thought and attention applied in forming a strong rationale for selecting speakers: people who would be able to bring the theme to life in really engaging way, from three distinct perspectives, and give tangible examples of how Responsible Innovation happens in their worlds. The speakers certainly helped to create lively and engaged discussion in the breakout rooms, supporting attendees in contributing what the theme means to them in a variety of contexts. Careful consideration of vocabulary and drawing on our expertise in design-led facilitation meant we were able to create an environment that fostered reciprocal discussion.

No one dropped out at the break. It is usual to see some attendees leave at the mid-way comfort break, before the breakout rooms. However, in our case all attendees stayed onboard throughout the event. It seems fair to speculate that this was partly influenced by our emphasis on the breakout rooms as the focal point of the CAKE, rather than the usual focus on the panel presentations. Further, it is likely that people stayed throughout because we kept their attention, they were genuinely engaged and enthusiastic!

And as for timing? It ran to the minute, and not a moment over!

What did we learn from it?

It was a valuable exercise in practising how we use language to ensure the content is accessible across disciplines and sectors, supporting the exchange of knowledge and ideas between all attendees. The role of shared language in knowledge exchange is a key area of interest and the CAKE was a great opportunity to apply our thinking.

Understanding the exact demographic of the audience, in terms of sector and also scale and nature of the organisations represented. This data will inform how we design and promote future CAKE events, particularly in how we better represent non-profit and cultural organisations.

  • Academic institutions: 44%
  • Enterprise and industry: 35%
  • Development agencies: 15%
  • Charities and CICs: 7%

Learning just how much work is involved in producing a 1-hour 30-minute event, which is delivered online. We gained first-hand experience of the challenges involved, as well as some of the benefits and drawbacks of delivering a virtual event.

What can we do better next time?

In addition to revisiting the event promotion to ensure that we are not mainly talking to our academic peers, in future we would like to:

Be more strategic. CAKEs offer an ideal opportunity to position our research amongst a broad audience of Northeast based organisations. We can make more of this to form networks around shared interests, issues and challenges.

Go further in exploring alternative event formats. In the future it will be possible to look beyond virtual delivery and consider significantly different ways to collectively exchange knowledge and creativity.

Get feedback. We really overlooked this aspect, and in future we will plan ahead for how we effectively follow up after the event to gather feedback.

Creative Fuse North East is supported by: European Regional Development Fund, Northern Powerhouse & Arts and Humanities Research Council


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