Oliver Raud project manager at Plymouth College of Art and speaker at the European Week of Regions has sent us his thoughts on what Aych is in Europe. A clear commitment to transnationality and cooperation in these very complicated moments, let’s read carefully everything you tell us.

Why/How has the Interreg transnational cooperation been essential for tackling the specific thematic challenges?

Transnational cooperation allows for the Confluence of ideas, people, cultures, perceptions, prejudices, Technologies, disciplines, demographics and opportunities.

We have developed a number of methodologies and pathways that have been co-designed, co-created and jointly implemented throughout the project partnership, drawing on skills, knowledge and expertise that we alone do not possess.

The Creative Jam comes to mind, principally. A  place where young people in transnational teams are presented with a brief to develop a service or product that responds to the societal challenges of our time – linked to the UN SD goals- and reimagine an interaction, a place, process etc developing a prototype of this and pitching the idea to their peers, experts, investors, local authorities and industry experts. It could be big, small, digital, analog, it’s a place to experiment in a transdisciplinary space. Young people are not done to, they are empowered to see themselves as the change agents we desperately need in society. It’s a longitudinal project and AYCH is the start of a transnational collaboration that will continue to Foster entrepreneurs across Europe that are able to be comfortable, confident and skilled in a society and job market that is constantly changing and is unstable, building social capital as well as financial capital.

We haven’t shied away from social entrepreneurship and creating businesses with a social purpose and meaning. I felt, when I was writing this project, that a fresh perspective on the way in which we empower young people, through design disciplines, digital fabrication skills and Key Enabling Technologies would bring a different approach to the type of entrepreneurship we were  fostering. An entrepreneur that was socially minded, inclusive, responsible and digitally savvy. By embracing methods such as User Experience design, service and product design as well as design thinking more broadly, we are teaching young people key skills to bring new products and services to the market, underpinned with technical, business and entrepreneurial formation. I also felt that it was  important to make sure these skills and expertise were democratised outside of the walls of higher education and fee paying environments. A young person accessing a youth service hub in Gijon, should have the same right to knowledge as a student from Liverpool attending university and the same is true across the partnership locations.

What is the added value of transnational cooperation for those thematic fields compared to other modalities of cooperation (cross border, Life +, H2020, etc.)

What was and is great about AYCH is that it doesn’t really look like your average INTERREG project. INTERREG AA programme has allowed us some real freedom and trust with regards to the types of activity we were proposing, the types of actors in the partnership and how we realised the activities. I’ve been in and around INTERREG projects for the best part of 10 years and they have generally been pretty safe bets, as Local Authorities tend to be the primary stakeholders, however increasingly in the UK and now across the rest of Europe, austerity has meant that LAs are unable to enact as much of their policies as they may be used to, giving way to new collaborations and whilst I definitely don’t think austerity has been a good thing at all, we have seen some wider, more innovative partnership actions coming to the fore.

As an example of this, collaboration between research organisations, local authorities, youth organisations, CICs, business development agencies, from different sectors – mostly creative industries – have come together in AYCH and supported over 20 new products to market, in this first 18 months and given the opportunity for 100s of young Europeans to experience new skills in KET and enterprise, developing not only their business acumen but also their key 21st century skills, character skills, deep skills or soft skills, whatever you want to call them, as they work in teams, across national boundaries, supporting territorial development, from the ground up.

How could Interreg TN cooperation contribute to reduce disparities at territorial level and improve citizens’ well-being?

I feel they absolutely can and they are a very positive test bed for pilot actions, schemes and initiatives that can have a tangible impact as we try to reimagine our relationship with capitalism, the institutions that govern us, technology, data, social media etc.

At the core of the ethos of AYCH was an axis of two of the key partners – Plymouth College of Art and Brest Métropole – and their embracing of digital manufacture, maker cultures and making as an act of learning and resistance. Brest and Plymouth are the World’s 1st Twin Fab Cities. Joining this network of locally productive and globally connected cities has really positively contributed to what we see in the AYCH project, as a Fab City is a sharing, balanced, prosperous city that cares not only for its citizens’ welfare and environment but also the way in which we Foster innovation and value systems that are not extractive, nor reductive and exploitative. We are aiming to support our young people to be the citizens who are empowered to make their own future and not passively consume it. We talk about Smart Citizens who are able to benefit from a decentralised power system and positively support a larger number of people, across class and economic divides. They are also citizens that are able to benefit from the democratised access to production means – 3D printers, CAD, CNC manufacturing machines etc. to prototype and build for themselves and others, responding to a need of a place and connecting with others across Europe to share knowledge and resources. They are then confident and entrepreneurially versed enough to create value from their ideas and rollout their products and services more widely.

I believe this is possible from these projects and it should be celebrated that they allow us to do this, despite tons of bureaucracy and the hugely disruptive threat of Brexit looming!!!!

How could the financing of projects through Interreg TN contribute to the improvement of public policies?

If there was an improved policy platform to listen to and invite open, participatory democracy.

At present, it feels as if there isn’t really the mechanism to fully showcase the impact, merits and detail of a project to policymakers. There is a disconnect between the political classes and the people, which is giving rise to populism and populist policies.

As a piece of positive action, as part AYCH, we are developing a model and then a policy adoption, toolkit in order that others, across  Europe at both practitioner/operational level as well as civic leadership and policy maker level people are able to pick up and implement aspects of our project or adopt it wholesale in their locality. We feel this practically allows citizens and government alike to use the investment in our project over a longer term.


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