Taking place in July 2021 and responding to the constraints imposed by Covid-19 on contextually located community engagement and place-based research, the DI&L Summer Stravaig created opportunities for a distributed network of communities, practitioners, researchers, Post Graduate Research (PGR) students, partners, stakeholders and policymakers to exchange ‘lived experiences’ of landscape, participation, and practice to generate insights, approaches, and collectives towards ‘reimagining communities’.

The Summer Stravaig acted as a virtual platform to share insights and findings from DI&L and advance ‘post-disciplinary’ discourse in the field of Design Innovation; through exploring diverse heritage and cultural values within island archipelagos in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland and the role design innovation plays in enhancing decision-making in relation to landscape, land-use and land assets. DI&L has engaged stakeholders with-in the Western and Northern Isles to explore individual and collective relationships to land, contextually-situated opportunities for local decision-making and the priorities needed to support communities at local, regional, and national levels in a post-pandemic world, and in response to complex intersectional challenges including Brexit and climate change.

 Ongoing restrictions on face-to-face interaction have led DI&L to critically reflect upon how participation in landscape decision-making can take place ’remotely’, and how design innovation can mediate formal and informal engagement approaches. Reviews of participatory mechanisms reveal that processes are often limited in citizen access and representation. At the same time, related government objectives often exist without suggested methods or mechanisms for implementation. This presented a timely opportunity at the Stravaig to explore how notions of ownership and empowerment are understood and integrated into ameliorating ‘political agency’; how communities become aware of the opportunities policy affords; and how policy intentions can be reimagined by citizens and communities to support equitable and sustainable outcomes.

The two-week programme featured:

• panel presentations from international experts in design innovation, land, democracy, and policy;

• thematic plenary sessions with broader cross-sectoral partners and stakeholders;

• film previews from creative practitioners based in the Western and Northern Isles;

• presentations with postgraduate research students.


Across these activities, discussions were focused on the following themes:

• Reimagining communities with a focus on existing cultural and material assets;

• Equitable, representative and inclusive participation and defining pluralities of value;

• Methods, tools, artefacts - digital and/or physical – that facilitate decision-making;

• The interaction between the past and present in advancing political agency;

• New alternative models that support community and environmental renewal;

• Towards new communities: hope and the future.


The DI&L network are currently reflecting upon how the Stravaig insights can help to shape a framework for landscape decision-making, and are developing methods and approaches to co-design this with communities in a subsequent phase of engagement.

Blog Banner Image:

North Hill boundary stone dyke wall with coastguard hut, Papa Westray

black and white digital image, Saoirse Higgins 2021

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