This week Willem de Kooning Academy (WDKA) in Rotterdam focuses on, and questions, developments in business models resulting from creative thinking in the ‘Redesigning Business’ event. Four master classes that start today will culminate in a symposium on Thursday evening, with presentations by Annelys de Vet (studio DEVET), Joost Beunderman (director of architecture 00 in London), Duzan Doepel (Doepel Strijkers Architecten), Pieter Haasnoot (social innovator Up Next) and André Schaminée (advisor Twynstra Gudde). Iris Schutten (Social Practices, WDKA) explains.

‘Redesigning Business’ is initiated by Iris Schutten, who coordinates WDKA’s Social Practices graduation profile. WDCD talked to Schutten about the event.

Why does WDKA organise the ‘Redesigning Business’ event?
Schutten: ‘Both “entrepreneurship” and “social practices” are part of the new and interdisciplinary curriculum of the Willem de Kooning Academy. That is because designers and artists nowadays claim new positions as developer, investor or initiator of the products or services they design. They see the creation of business models as design projects in which value creation surpasses financial gain.
‘We feel we should explore and discuss these developments, especially since in Rotterdam we see a lot of creative entrepreneurs setting up new, sustainable and/or social business models. Examples are RotterZwam, Stealth Unlimited, Leeszaal West and Sweatshop Deluxe. We want to establish the influence of creative thinking on the development such new business models and determine which skills designers and artists need to develop for this.’

What are your goals and for whom the event is meant?
‘The event is targeted at entrepreneurs, artists, designers, researchers and transition oriented city-dwellers. We hope to inspire them by showing interesting business models and get things a step further by debate. The master classes, from 17-21 November, discuss the business models of the Civic Economy, the Circular Economy, the Sharing Economy. The fourth, by Gamifying these models, tries to determine the real-life consequences.’

In preparing the event, did you encounter surprising new business models?
‘We came across some nice examples of the circular, or blue economy, that optimally use local facilities, don’t pollute and focuses on the long term. Examples are the Bio-based Retrofit House by Doepel Strijkers architects, de Ceuvel in Amsterdam or Villa Welpeloo by Superuse Studios. Fairphone, launched at WDCD13, is another strong example.’

Do you think the creative disciplines will really change our economy?
‘Designers will be part in it as they enter new fields. Tools of the creative disciplines, like design thinking and systemic analysis are very useful to address the current economic, ecological and social crises. Designers like Kees Dorst demonstrate that designers, using their skills, are able to reframe wicked problems and come up with surprising proposals. Designers will not change the economy by themselves, but in interaction and cooperation with others. Social artists and designers no longer focus exclusively on products like a table, dress or a neighbourhood, but instead propose the (re)design of processes, interactions and relationships around this table, dress or neighbourhood.’

Redesigning business symposium
20 November 2014, 19-22h (door opens 18.30h)
Tickets €25, (WDKA alumni €10, students €5)
Maashaven South Side 20 (ground floor)
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