Curatorial Statement

Designing a brave post Covid world

An initiative of the Mission Network of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa, the #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL celebrates and examines the power of design to tackle current socio-economic and environmental challenges within an African context.

The festival is organised in collaboration with the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) and draws on a range of subject experts who have provided guidance and input into form and content.

The programme for this year’s festival has been developed through five conversations we have facilitated in a monthly Creative Exchange held each month since March 2021. These conversations have served to start the conversation and exploration of very complex issues and have thrown up more focused discussions that we need to have at the festival. The Creative Exchanges have acted as a bridge to the #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL 2021 and means that we will be able to explore our thematic areas in more detail over the four days.

*Please note that tickets to attend in person are limited, with strict COVID-19 protocols observed.


In its fourth iteration, #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL will take place from 20-23 September 2021. The festival will take participants on a deep dive into four thematic areas that we have identified as the major fault lines in South Africa – brutally exposed by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mitigating measures – in order to stimulate ideas and action that result in inclusion and change in our world.


The last festival was in February 2020, just as the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding. Pre-pandemic, we spoke of a “context of a global climate emergency, rising nationalism and the deepening divide between rich and poor alongside South Africa’s own emergencies of a stagnant economy, youth unemployment and rampant corruption”.

And, while it’s not our focus, this year’s festival has to consider the impact and implications of the pandemic.

Covid has further exposed the fault lines of SA for all to see, and made hugely visible the inadequacies and inefficiencies in our food, health and sanitation systems, and how these are further impacted by the state of our economy and high levels of unemployment.

Last year we focused on digital inclusion as a cross-cutting priority. This year, through this lens of digital inclusion, we grapple with the lessons we have learnt over the last 18 months and the ways in which technology can be used to create or enhance access to a resilient economy, healthcare, food security and safe water and sanitation.

We need to act in very meaningful ways to address these issues. But we are also drowning in opinions masquerading as facts; not to mention the politics.

So, we pursue these issues not to dwell on them but to shine a light on them so as to understand why they exist in the first instance – in the desire to stimulate new thinking and fresh ideas from the many thinkers and doers who relentlessly seek solutions to poverty, hunger and inequality in our world.

The #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL 2021 aims firstly to create a conscious space that gathers together a diverse range of people, who may not often or easily come together, to have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations about pressing local and global issues. Secondly, it aims to support innovators and entrepreneurs into actioning their solutions to these issues.

The point of the sessions and the festival is to expose the broader ‘design and innovation’ community to thought-leaders, innovators and inspiring makers and doers …to inspire and catalyse more thought and solutions…and build a ‘community of practice’ in the process.


The #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL 2021 will provide us with a platform to create awareness of and showcase the application of innovation and design-led approaches in various contexts that connects stakeholders, builds collaboration and solution seeking efforts and in so doing supports inclusive digital development. This annual happening will be a stimulus that unlocks hope and inspiration; bolsters purpose; fuels action; and ignites change while building community, collaboration and partnerships – opening possibilities beyond the event itself.

The thematic strands of the programme are styled around a few big questions or hypotheses which are aimed at stimulating conversation and debates. The ‘unconference’ style of the festival will this year take the form of a hybrid event – with small physical gatherings and site visits, online conversations, and facilitated design thinking sprints aimed at supporting innovators to start to bed down their ideas.

This year we will also be launching the RE:SOLVE Design Innovation Challenge – an eight-month design thinking process programme driven by the CDI, with funding from the City of Cape Town, aimed at turning good ideas into reality.


It is in this spirit that we invite private sector businesses, communities, designers, thinkers, do-ers, visionaries and policy makers to the third edition of this collaborative public design festival. #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL 2021 will spotlight the ordinary everyday activities, host the necessary conversations and provide skills and information to build stronger and smarter communities that are able to participate in enabling digital inclusion and drive the action needed to facilitate access.


With the broad theme: “Designing a brave post Covid world”, the underpinning question of the #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL is “how might we design solutions for increased inclusivity and access?”

The programme is structured against four key topic pillars. Particular focus is on inclusive digital innovation and creative solutions to address what COVID-19 has left even more vulnerable. We are inviting subject experts to talk on a range of topics under the following pillars:

  • Our economyis in trouble and we need to prioritise public and private sector investment in new and existing sectors that have opportunities for job creating growth. In this context, how do we focus on the future – what is our post Covid world likely to look like and where do new opportunities lie? If SMMEs are a major factor in our resilient economy, how do we really support micro and small businesses from the ground up; the self-employed, family businesses, micro businesses transition from informal to sustainable? And when all is said and done, what is the role of the public sector as an enabler and building the confidence of the private sector to invest in job creating growth.
  • The pandemic has exposed how vital our healthcare systemis in supporting a healthy and productive nation. What lessons have we learnt during Covid that we can use to build a robust and equitable healthcare system? How can healthtech advance equal access to specialist and emergency services? How would investment in R&D build homegrown resilience on the continent? And most importantly, how do we build a healthy nation in the first instance?
  • Our food systemis broken for millions of South Africans who struggle to access, on a daily basis, affordable, nutritious and good quality food – yet vast quantities of food are wasted each day. How do we solve the food waste problem, at source? Can urban food production reduce hunger and how do we support better nutrition and health. And the big question: who is actually responsible for making sure our food system works?
  • Our water and sanitation systemis under huge pressure with the pandemic highlighting how important access is to reducing the spread of the virus and keeping people healthy. In South Africa we face a double whammy of increasing demand for water with reducing supply. We need to find creative solutions now, before we run out of this precious resource.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare so many of our challenges as a country. If we can start with understanding and processing, we can find new ways of designing solutions together that will lead to better access and real change.” - Erica Elk, CEO of CDI

“We aim to explore these pressing challenges experienced by South Africans, but also, and importantly, showcase the application of innovation and design-led approaches to serve as inspiration. This we hope will spark many more new ideas. Connecting it all is design; we want to stimulate the design of better systems, products and services.” - Sebastiaan Messerschmidt, Consul General at the Netherlands Consulate General in Cape Town

The #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL will take place online with only small in-person gatherings (places are limited). Please register and save the dates - more event details and speaker information to follow soon.


Speakers and Facilitators
An initiative of the Netherlands Consulate General in partnership with the Craft and Design Institute