Innovation research group launched at exclusive STEAMhouse event

Representatives from some of the world’s most prominent businesses came together for the exciting launch of a new interdisciplinary research group hosted at Birmingham City University (BCU)’s business innovation centre, STEAMhouse.

Posted 20 September 2022

Birmingham City University professor Marsha Aftab launching the Design Led Transformation Group.

A new research group to share knowledge and processes

Mersha Aftab, MA Design Management Course Director at BCU, officially launched the Design Led Transformation Group with an event that brought together representatives from several disciplines.

The Group, which contains stakeholders from various industries, will aim to grow the conversation and share knowledge and networks in the region around how design can facilitate transformative change.

“The Design Led Transformation Group brings the private, public, higher education sectors, as well as learners, together to transform processes, systems and services to be more human-centred,” Mersha explains.

“It connects people to share and develop a common understanding of how design approaches could benefit businesses, councils, innovators and students.

“The overall objective for the Group is to ensure any organisation – big or small – in any sector can benefit from research and practice in adopting design-led innovation principles, methods and processes to transform their products and services.”

Meeting the needs of the industry

The Group has been formed to meet the needs of the industry regarding innovation.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created a dire need for the public, private and HE sectors to innovate at a faster pace digitally,” Mersha explains.

“This has led to design-led innovation principles of empathy, user-centeredness, and user experience becoming essential strategic tools to curate, manage and lead world-leading digital services.”

Bringing together professionals to share best practices

The launch event focused on ‘the role of empathy in creating human-centred digital transformation’ and saw attendees from HE institutions, businesses, charities, local authorities and more.

Speaking at the event were representatives from Methods, the leading digital transformation partner for the UK public sector, and Gensler, the world’s largest design consultancy.

“The seminar aimed to bring together learners, professionals, researchers, and policymakers to share best practices and discuss a way to create human-centred digital transformations at scale,” explains Mersha.

Hannah Pinnock, from Methods, shared insights on the role of empathy in transforming digital services in the public sector, followed by Patrick Bek from STEAMhouse, who gave a very compelling presentation on the ‘good enough designer’, an upgraded role of designers in transformational projects.

“The third keynote, Louise Jorden, creative director from Gensler, took the audience on a visual journey of empathy in action from Gensler.”

A hybrid co-creation workshop followed the keynote, with all attendees discussing the importance of empathy in digital transformations.

The discussion illuminated some key areas where empathy is necessary when creating inclusive services (digital) and considering the accessibility and ethics of human-centred transformations and sustainable solutions.

“The most exciting aspect of the event was that ‘empathy’ acted as a glue to a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral audience to collaborate and discuss the value of ‘human-centred’ transformation,” says Mersha.

“Specifically, when the focus is taken away from the technology, market and profit, and brought back on ‘people’.

“The event led to a rich conversation and collaboration amongst professionals who usually would not cross paths due to disciplinary and sectoral differences.

“I look forward to launching the subsequent events, which have the opportunity to network, learn and acquire skills to be and create human-centred transformations.”

More events and seminars are planned for the future, as well as a series of podcasts.

Are you interested in becoming a member of the Design Led Transformation Group? Find out more by visiting the website.