Writing an end of year blog is always a challenge. Writing a 2016 wrap is a particular challenge. There has been a huge amount of commentary on events of this year – I am not going to try and emulate these.

The pace and scale of events that have brought us a new prime minister, an exit vote from the EU and Donald Trump in the White House has been astonishing. The pace of how we respond to this change is crucial; whatever sector, business, or service we operate in. Now, perhaps more than ever, design has a vital role to play.

Design Council’s core value remains to improve lives through design.

Like the world around us, Design Council is going through a period of transformation. We have a renewed sense of purpose, new delivery models and a new strategy. Design Council’s core value remains to improve lives through design. This is visible across our services, people, and the partners we work with. The ambition to use design to unlock solutions through product, services and places across the country continues to have enormous potential. In 2017 our aim is to put design and design-led innovation at the heart of solutions for social, environmental and economic change across the UK.

In 2016, we rose to the challenge. We are particularly proud to have launched our flagship social impact programme, Transform Ageing, for which we were awarded a grant of £3.65m from the Big Lottery Fund in the summer. This pioneering programme in the south-west of England will take a design-led approach to improving people’s experience of ageing. It brings together people in later life with social entrepreneurs, and health and social care leaders to define, develop and deliver new solutions that better meet the needs and aspirations of people.

We are particularly proud to have launched our flagship social impact programme, Transform Ageing, for which we were awarded a grant of £3.65m from the Big Lottery Fund.

Meanwhile in the built environment, our Cities Programme continues this outcome-driven, person-centred approach. In 2016 we have supported and championed well-designed places across the country, helping developments respond to and meet the needs of communities. We have partnered with a range of authorities, including the London boroughs of Bexley and Waltham Forest to deliver Design Advice Panels’, as well as providing design support on major infrastructure projects including all the key sites for London’s Tideway Tunnel. We continue to provide strategic advice and support to   authorities across the country and across a range of regeneration and development schemes, including in Birmingham and Oxfordshire.

Social inclusion is at the heart of our work and 2016 has seen the continued development our Inclusive Environments hub. We drew upon this experience when giving evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee Disability and the Built Environment inquiry in November. We champion inclusion on a local, regional and international stage, engaging with cities across the globe on the value and purpose of inclusive places. We were proud to launch our short film at the Rio Paralympics as part of the of the UK’s contribution to international discussions on inclusion.

The connection between place, design innovation, economic and social transformation cuts across all of our work.

In October, we hosted the Design for Europe: Powering Innovation Summit. This fantastic event brought together the key themes and learnings from our three-year long programme, Design for Europe. More than 250 attendees from all of the European regions and beyond came together to consider how design across different places can continue to transform businesses, governments and provide solutions for future economic growth. Design for Europe continues to deepen its 70,000 strong community and plans further cutting-edge design solutions in the year ahead.

Meanwhile, back at home we recently launched our fifth cohort of the Design in the Public Sector programme, run in partnership with the LGA. To date, more than 49 project teams in eight regions have benefited from this innovative training programme. This time, we’re in London, where councils are keen to integrate design thinking into their daily work. Next year we will be developing this work further; using design-led thinking to unlock problems and help respond to the significant social challenges facing communities, regions and governments.

We’re already looking forward to January when we will be identifying ambitious, scalable ideas which have the potential to deliver impact in the market.

We also continue to train people in design across a number of design-related disciplines. Our Design Academy has connected to students from universities all over the country and has made a real impact on participants. In September we celebrated the successes of our 2016 Spark finalists and launched the call for innovative product ideas in fields as diverse as health, energy, transport and the environment. We’re already looking forward to January when we will be identifying ambitious, scalable ideas which have the potential to deliver impact in the market.

One of our insight programmes the Knee High Design Challenge concluded this year with an event in Southwark, where we presented a full evaluation of the project. We brought together our programme partner Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, Lambeth and Southwark councils, and health and social care leaders from all over the country to consider the Knee High vision for change – how models of practice such as this might be adopted more widely in order to improve the health and wellbeing of people of all ages, all over the country. While the programme itself might have finished, some of the businesses we put through it are going from strength to strength, and we wish them continued success in 2017.

Behind the big headlines, the mechanics of policy is ever important. There have been some small but critical developments this year. Design has been embedded into the new National Infrastructure Commission, and into Innovate UK’s work. Government programmes such as Healthy New Towns and the Estate Regeneration Strategy have launched and present a real opportunity to build the link between well-designed places, and health and wellbeing to provide benefit to communities across the country.

Next year, we will be launching our research into design led innovation and skills. It will practically connect the impact and capacity of design innovation to the skills sets required to support growth and transformation across different places and sectors of the economy. We will connect this work directly to policy recommendations for an industrial strategy.

Government programmes such as Healthy New Towns and the Estate Regeneration Strategy have launched and present a real opportunity to build the link between well-designed places, and health and wellbeing to provide benefit to communities across the country.

Our work will continue to be focused, ambitious and relevant and we will engage with our partners, the design community and beyond to respond to the challenges that will arise in 2017. We will help to better understand and explain the wider value of design, how it drives innovation and how it impacts the economy as a whole.

None of us expected the scale and nature of the change that 2016 has brought. Yet all of us have to respond to it with entrepreneurialism and energy. This is what Design Council was set up to do in 1944, and in 2017 we will continue to do; making sure the economy, the built environment and society get the very best from design.

After the pace of 2016, the Christmas break provides a welcome moment of reflection and rejuvenation. We wish our partners and colleagues well and look forward to working with renewed energy and dedication in 2017.

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News & opinion

Transform Ageing launches to redesign the experience of later life Transform Ageing is a pioneering new programme taking a design-led approach to improving people’s experience of ageing. This new, cross-sector initiative will bring together people in later life, social entrepreneurs and health and social care leaders to define, develop and deliver innovative new... Transform Ageing is a pioneering new programme taking a design-led approach to improving people’s experience of ageing.

News — 28/11/2016

How can we improve the experience of ageing? Transform Ageing sets out to tackle how best to develop sustainable later-life care, and improve the experience of ageing at the same time. Transform Ageing sets out to tackle how best to develop sustainable later-life care, and improve the experience of ageing at the same time.

Feature — 13/02/2017

Our response to the government's Housing White Paper Design Council Cabe today welcomes the government’s Housing White Paper, which sets out a clear approach to boosting housing supply. Design Council Cabe today welcomes the government’s Housing White Paper, which sets out a clear approach to boosting housing supply.

News — 07/02/2017