G20 Culture: Design for Social Change

It is such a great honour to have the opportunity to represent Bandung Creative City Forum (BCCF) and Indonesia Creative Cities Network (ICCN) in G20 Culture Webinar: Building capacity through training and education, themed “Human Capital – The Driver of Culture-led Regeneration” that took place on Tuesday, 13 April 2021.

I was asked to discuss the topic Design for Social Change in Session II – Changing perspectives for cultural heritage. Each speaker was allowed 5 minutes each, with a maximum of 3 slides that illustrate the points. It always takes an extra preparation in order to be so concise. 

Here I’m attaching my slide deck, some have appeared in previous presentations, but with a bit of modifications, and the text that I prepared prior to the session in order to make the 5 minutes duration. The presentation is titled Inclusive Creative Economy for A Resilient Society.


Good afternoon, or evening in my time zone,

It is such a great pleasure to be able to share a bit of thoughts in this prominent forum, about design for social change, within the context of perspectives for cultural heritage. Thank you to G20 for this valuable opportunity.

Most of my viewpoints in this talk would come from the perspectives of communities. 

Please allow me to start with the City of Bandung as an example, to talk about Design and Social Change. Bandung joined UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Design in 2015, by referring to DESIGN not only as a certain aesthetics or functional qualities of an object, service, or system. But as a tool of thinking, applied by citizens and communities to respond to their surrounding problems. 

We use CREATIVITY as a strategy to lessen the gap between people and government, between people and policy. We have been doing interventions in public spaces in the form of urban games, raising many urban issues such as green open space, heritage, local SMEs, and so on. 

We have been making experiments and PROTOTYPES of urban solutions, to show how a city can work better. We create experiences of how a city can be more liveable and loveable.  

IN THE NEXT SLIDE we illustrate that we practice the concept of URBAN ACUPUNCTURE that considers a city as an organic entity, not unlike a human body. It has its centres for thinking, breathing, sensing, and disposing; systems that process and distribute nutritions, energy, and waste. It has memories and hopes for the future.

These urban interventions are within the contexts of CREATIVE ECONOMY ECOSYSTEM, leading to the establishment of Indonesia Creative Cities Network, a hub organisation that connects community members in more than 200 cities from all over Indonesia, each implementing similar methods for its own particular issues and priorities. 

Society becomes an active stakeholder of a city, building social innovations and resilience, to create an inclusive, urban future. In THE NEXT SLIDE, we have a model – taken from our white paper and policy recommendations for U20 Riyadh 2020 – that illustrates how CREATIVE ECONOMY supports a HUMAN-CENTRED DEVELOPMENT to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Here we discuss how people in Creative Economy sectors are most capable to adapt to future challenges, due to their three main characteristics: (1) High-order cognitive skills, such as originality, which tend to actively seek out new business ideas to enhance various traditional services; (2) Technology savviness in the various aspects of business, the agility in combining or mastering advanced technology that has become indispensable in creative industries products and services; (3) Skills that characterise creative communities; the interpersonal ability that has been co-existing within the creative economy ecosystem, where individuals and communities blend to redefine the conventional concepts of “professions” into the more updated contexts of “roles” and “functions” with higher flexibilities in current and future occupations.

We are convinced that inclusive creative economy lead to wide opportunities for relevant growth of societies that are resilient to answer to the challenges of SDGs; including the preservation and activation of cultural heritage, in choosing what’s relevant, in order to create their own ‘living heritage’ to hand over to the future generations.      

With this, I conclude my talk. Thank you.


The discussion that occurred afterwards was quite engaging. Concerning cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible – sure, some of us are still fighting to “preserve” them, but it’s more or less about perception, too: who decides that something is worth preserving, or erasing? Which narratives – that come along with the cultural heritage – do we want to keep? This has been among the debates around cultural heritage preservation, especially in South East Asia, where not everything conveys messages that people want to retain. Some would even consider that preserving them means retaining the unwelcome ideas.

This is where our urban acupuncture in the forms of public space interventions and urban games play a role. We (re)connect people with their living spaces and activities, using different angles in game scenarios and raising awareness of overlooked local treasures. Design and design thinking are essential in the planning and executing the whole activities; and, as acupunctures go, consistency leads to real impacts: improvements in public facilities, a new bill on creative economy, higher appreciation for local SMEs, and so on.

Back to the subject of heritage. A late professor who attended my doctoral public defence once said, a city without its (cultural) heritage is like a person without his memories: it has no recollection of its identity and journey. Of course not all memories are pleasant, but didn’t the bad ones teach us some lessons, that also made us who we are today?

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