In 2012 Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Institute of Design Innovation (InDI) established the Creative Futures Partnership, a programme of up £10 millions to create wide-ranging programme with the ultimate aim to help in delivering HIE’s economic and community development priorities.

The partnership addresses complex issues faced by the region, such as youth migration and the need of innovating the use of digital technologies.
Projects within the partnership link internationally with academic and business partners to develop the creative capabilities of students, enterprises, communities and government of the area, through a collaborative and cross-generational approach.

As part of this programme we've been involved in the exploratory stage of  two important projects: Bag O'Clews and Archipelago 136. 

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Bag O’ Clews is a research project that focuses on the innovation of material practices, including traditional craft and textile practices, which strongly connect to the culture of the Highlands and Islands. The aim is to reinforce the link between creative communities and creative industries and aspires to boost social connectivity and economic renewal, both locally and globally.

Our role as design researchers was to carry out a scope visit in two distinctive remote Scottish communities, the Orkney and Shetland Islands. We carried out focus groups with members of the Mareel Shetland Arts, Unst Heritage Centre and Trustees, Global Yell and many other creative industries, together with the local representatives for Highlands and Islands Enterprise. We then gathered the main insights into two journal reports called Yarns and Traces. 

Projects are currently being defined around the themes of placemaking, re-engaging youth in traditional material practices, careership and livelihood, and connectivity.

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Archipelago 136 responds to Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam’s research theme Innovation from the Edge and involves a design research-led programme focusing on the unique cultures of island life in the communities of the Hebrides.

The research aims to explore ways to build resilient, creative and confident communities and partnerships, and to connect and inspire others across the world. As part of the programme three themes have been explored: tourism and ways for visitors and islanders to work together in the Isle of Lewis; enhancing the value of cultural heritage between Stornway and Uig; work with local practitioners and traditional enterprises to innovate traditional skills and cultures of work with the use of digital technology.   

Our involvement in the programme was to gather insights from the three vibrant projects in place, work collaboratively with the researchers to produce a monthly journal update to share internally and with HIE partners. 

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