Design was the epicenter of conversations at the fifth edition of What’s Next 2019, a World Café Style confluence hosted by Pearl Academy at Novotel in Mumbai recently. With “Creative Spark” as the central theme, the two-day event witnessed leading global design educators, industry experts, policymakers, international design professionals, thought leaders come together to discuss urgent social issues and the works of technological vanguards.
Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Ayog, presented the keynote address highlighting how design, digitization, the dynamic start-up movement and frugal innovation across various sectors has been the defining feature of India’s success story and continues to do so. He further highlighted that India with top class entrepreneurship, digital technology and vast market will become a land of design, innovation and a storehouse of data in the coming decade. Adding that the real value lies in design and innovation, Mr. Kant stressed that there is no reason to believe why Indians with such creative and sparkling mind combined with top-class entrepreneurship could not lead the world in the coming days.
With these words, setting the stage for intellectually stimulating conversations, Mr. Amitabh Kant officially launched the book titled “What’s Next – The Impact of Design Towards Nation Building” encompassing insights shared by some of the best minds from across the world during previous What’s Next confluence held in 2017 in New Delhi.
What’s Next is aimed to build a creative bridge between avant-garde experiments in technology and their potential to make social impact. This year’s What’s Next symposium was divided into 3 themes – Urgent Matters, Edge of our Imagination and Creative leaders of Tomorrow, covering a mélange of pertinent and pressing topics like Social Justice, Big Data and Autonomous Intelligence, Re-thinking urbanization, Rediscovering past, Sharing economy and Collective Responsibilities, Parallel Realities, Digital Humanity, Disruptive Education, Economies of well-being, Ways of seeing, Shared Future and Electric Sheep. The confluence was intended to provoke creative minds to come up with solutions to complex problems. Industry veterans deliberated upon several issues to derive how creative intervention can help make a positive change in today’s world of technological innovation and initiate a socio-economic revolution.
Urgent Matters focused on issues like sustainability, climate change, equality, inclusivity, social justice, biodiversity, urban sustainability and other relevant global issues. Speakers stressed on education being the foundation for bringing social justice in society and the need for inclusivity to go beyond functionality or preferences based on gender, race, economic status etc.
Edge of our imagination centered on newer technologies like AR and VR that are changing the definition of humanity, big data, digital humanity and new-age bio materials. Speakers emphasized on the fact that technology is unstoppable, what best we can be done is adapt to it and retain humanity. Human will always be at the center of all technological advancement, hence it is important to treat technology as an enabler, as a tool to empower humans with better expertise and not see it as a competitor.
The session on Creative Leadership tried to decipher the role of education in preparing future leaders, positive leadership, economies of well-being and approaches towards a shared future. Speakers shared their thoughts on how creativity should be part of the education process right from the beginning and not a part of higher education system. Consensus was arrived at the fact that in the rapidly changing environment, it is important to be human, to spread happiness around and find a sense of purpose in the work we do.
Prominent personalities and industry experts who participated and shared their insights included - Prof Anil Gupta, Founder, Honey Bee Networks; Dr. Indira Parikh, Former Founder-President, Flame University; Ashoke Chatterjee, Advisor, Centre for Heritage Management; Gitanjali JB, Academic Head, Himalayan Institute of Alternatives; Matias Enchanova, Urbanologist; Skye Morrison, Educator and Designer; Matthew Ward, HoD Design, Goldsmith University of London; Stefano Mirti, Designer, Iversity; Sanjay Sharma, Founder and CEO, Recommender Lab; Anand Gurnani, MD, Vamrr; Colin Renfrew, Former Director, Manchester Fashion Institute; Peter Lloyd, Dean – School of Art, Design and Fashion, Southampton Solent University; Claudio Moderini, Design Director Innovation by Design, LLC and Sharad Mehra, President, Creative Arts Education Society.
Commenting on the success of the confluence, Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, said, “My compliments to Pearl Academy for taking such unique initiative. I think this will encourage creative thinking, multi-disciplinary approach, break the silos and enable India to think forward. We need to disrupt minds, without that we will not be able to find solutions to our problems. There cannot be Make in India without Design and Innovation in India. The real value lies in Design; it is the crux of what we do and that is what all advanced countries are doing in the world. My message to the students is - disrupt India in a manner which it has never seen before and that can only happen with The Creative Spark.”
Speaking about the success of this year’s What’s Next, Prof. Nandita Abraham, President, Pearl Academy, said, “It brings us immense pride to be the facilitator of conversations relevant not just for our industry but for society at large with such an intellectual and diverse set of experts. What’s Next has grown and evolved over these past 5 years to become a forum that encourages creative, innovative thinking and future prospects. This year’s success is testimony to Pearl Academy’s efforts to become initiators of change and disruption across India.”
This year’s What’s Next was extra special since the confluence was initiated at all 4 campuses of Pearl Academy – Delhi, Noida, Jaipur and Mumbai with 50+ workshops for 4600+ students and 200+ faculty members with stalwarts like Ashok Chatterjee, EX NID Director, Shammy Jacob, Design Thinker, Aparna Andhare, Museum Curator, Jinan KB De Educator, Himanshu Khanna, Game Designer, IM Chishti, Architect and many more. Over 300 students and faculty members participated in competitions focused on the framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that define urgent contemporary concerns, and build a collective momentum towards solving these problems. Students were asked to submit projects that address any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The faculty competition was aimed to celebrate creative excellence in teaching practices that demonstrate the potential of making a social impact. The intention was to award the most innovative educator who has designed a learning experience with a focus on understanding and applying SDG.