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Background

As in many countries, in Poland there is a certain level of confusion around the word ‘design’. It is commonly used in the sense of expensive, decorative products and the closest Polish equivalent means no more than just product or visual design. However, with the adoption of a broad definition of innovation in policies and operational programmes and a thriving network of regional design promotion centres, Poland is enthusiastically testing design approaches in many domains in the private and public sector.

Design for Europe has enriched the discussions on design by bringing European best practice in design-led innovation in various fields to Poland – from revitalising rundown city districts to business support and from building creative communities to policy-making

Eva Golebiowska, Director Cieszyn Castle, Design for Europe Ambassador, Poland

 
“Design for Europe has enriched the discussions on design by bringing European best practice in design-led innovation in various fields to Poland – from revitalising rundown city districts to business support and from building creative communities to policy-making.”
Eva Golebiowska, Director Cieszyn Castle, Design for Europe Ambassador, Poland
 
Through Design for Europe an opportunity arose to use design approaches to tackle a complex social and economic development issue in the heart of Warsaw’s deprived district, Praga.
 
“The most important challenge of revitalising Praga is engaging creative entrepreneurs and local community in building space for business development. Participation of the Praga inhabitants in creating a collaborative space in Praga for the City of Warsaw is the crucial issue. The fact is that the local community of Praga district is characterised by a high, long-term unemployment, and a large percentage of residents are beneficiaries of social assistance. The regeneration of Praga is one of the priorities of the ‘Integrated Revitalization Programme the Capital City of Warsaw 2014-2022’.”
Małgorzata Dąbkowska, Chief Advisor, City of Warsaw
 

How Design for Europe helped

An event organised in March 2016 in Praga, Design for Public Good, brought together the city authorities, local community, representatives of creative sectors and the experts from Lancaster University and Birmingham City University to work out a new approach to revitalising the rundown district. Praga used to be well known for all the wrong reasons –a  post-industrial district of Warsaw and home to many receiving social welfare. As such, Praga has been the focus of a large scale urban regeneration project as a priority for Warsaw City Council. 
 
“Although Praga has started attracting artists, designers and music venues, the current regeneration process must ensure that it is not only the facades of the buildings that are renovated but that the whole social fabric is also strengthened. Design, therefore, is an opportunity to creatively involve the local community in redesigning the district where they live. It is not about revitalisation for citizens but with citizens.” 
Weronika Rochacka Gagliardi, Design Strategist, ThinkDO Studio, Design for Europe Ambassador, Poland
 
Design for Public Good enabled a wide range of stakeholders to collaboratively identify challenges and opportunities for innovating public spaces in Praga. The design approaches constituted a different view on public consultation than had previously been conducted by Warsaw City Council. 

Outcomes

By actively engaging local communities and creative professionals in the Praga District, the City of Warsaw is now seeking to put into practice the recommendations that were developed during the event. This is be one of a growing number of initiatives across Poland with civil servants and local authorities working together with citizens to implement change.

We will be following up on a number of the proposals from the Design for Europe workshop including using the ‘Centre of Creativity Nowa Praga’ as a community of practice based model for multidisciplinary working

Małgorzata Dąbkowska, Chief Advisor, City of Warsaw

 
Design can play a role at every stage of the policy cycle - from understanding user needs and defining the root cause of the policy challenge through to iteration, implementation and feedback. In case of the project in Praga, design approaches were used at the outset of the policy process and there are further opportunities to work with Design for Europe for prototyping and evaluation with citizens.  

“We will be following up on a number of the proposals from the Design for Europe workshop including using the ‘Centre of Creativity Nowa Praga’ as a community of practice based model for multidisciplinary working. The space will be flexible possibly with no ‘fixed’ facilities. The Function of the building will be complementary to the activity, using the approach to co-design the space with its users. It will be a demand-led space connecting technology, creativity and the city.”
Małgorzata Dąbkowska, Chief Advisor, City of Warsaw