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We went down to Cornwall last week to meet a number of people. The prompt was the Design Council's next public engagement exercise, Dott Cornwall, which shares the spirit our own hypothesis: that if you give people design, they become more self-reliant. 

We went down to Cornwall last week to meet a number of people. The prompt was the Design Council's next public engagement exercise, Dott Cornwall, which shares the spirit our own hypothesis: that if you give people design, they become more self-reliant. 

From the charming and multifarious Director Robert O'Dowd we learned that two of the projects in the offing are a new community centre for the deprived Pengegon Estate and a new road between Camborne, Poole and Redruth. Now in the extreme interpretation of our hypothesis, the insights and processes of design would lead the residents of this estate and these towns to raise their own community centre, Amish-style, and build their own road like Romans in Britain. Naturally I'm very intersted in what the feasible version will be and expect t Dott to prevail steadfastly in "realising" the idea of user-involvment in design, as it did in the North East in 2007, furnishing the rest of us with exemplars.

Phil Gendall, a Falmouth designer whom we also had the pleasure of meeting at his harbourside studio, put the potential legacy in realistic terms in an interveiw for Design Week: "If some kids do a little better in school and graduate with a better understanding of design, then go on to run local businesses and commisison design in a better way, that would be a far better outcome than just bricks and mortar". This is to say that design teaches you what to ask for; not a bad analogy and certainly the principle that drives the Sorrell Foundation's JoinedUpDesignForSchools

Moving on to schools, we also made a visit to the very impressive Design & Making Centre at Redruth, which under the leadership of David Prest has for twenty years rigorously defined the fundamental meaning and value of designing and making and developed fantastically practical resources for classrooms nationwide. The DMC's emphasises many things in its rationale; I especially respond to design's cross-curricular potential, the confidence design gives people in addressing practical challenges and the way design encourages critical awareness about all aspects of our environment. All of this points to design being a high civic skill and makes a closer alliance between Design & Society and the RSA's Education project imperative. Literacy, Numeracy, Design! 

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