Blog Post

The 2019 Reimagine Co-Design Culture Lab

by | 15 Jun, 2020 | Blog, CoDesign @ CECS ANU, Events, Scaffolding Cultural Cocreativity

The 2019 Reimagine Co-Design Culture Lab brought together over 100 interested students, staff, industry professionals, community partners and overseas representatives to re- imagine the future of Australian National University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science (ANU CECS). The Culture Lab was the culmination of a year’s worth of CoDesign engagements, outreach workshops and research as part of the ReImagine investment.

The Lab explored questions around different modes of practice that engineering and computer science graduates will be engaged with in 2050 and beyond, building on a year of CoDesign activity, involving industry, students and academics. Over the three and a half days of the event we explored the diverse and far-reaching strands of our work, and laid foundations to enable the College to begin to prototype new approaches to teaching and learning. Participants learned about each other’s work through a series of workshops and provocations, spent dedicated time co-designing education agendas for CECS ANU, and explored the diverse and far-reaching strands of our work through the Creativity and Collaboration summit. 

We invited a range of practitioners and researchers who utilise the skills of collaboration and creativity in the disciplines of engineering and computer science to speak and facilitate interactive workshops. They were asked to provoke thinking and share tangible skills and insights about what enables creativity and collaboration in their work and practice. 

Activities included lightning talks of 10-15 minutes, small group workshops, and CoDesign workshops involving all participants. In between structured talks and activities we spent time together informally, sharing meals and refreshments, listening to music made by some of our ANU students and spending time together talking.

The Co-Design Culture Lab culminated in a final day design workshop, where the whole group came together to workshop and develop design criteria to guide activities within the Reimagine investment and the College going forward.

The goals of the event were to:

  1. engage diverse groups in identifying and articulating priority design challenges, criteria and projects which the Reimagine investment should tackle; 
  2. identify and develop a robust network of critical friends to work with the College and keep us accountable going forward;
  3. model CoDesign as a valued way of working with the College’s internal and external communities and networks of critical friends;
  4. help prepare the College to design approaches to education and collaboration fit for the middle of the century, drawing in new ideas, people and initiatives, and critically examining existing assumptions, methods and experiences.

We approached these goals with a diverse group of participants, including undergraduate and post-graduate students, staff, and research and teaching faculty from across the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS), and faculty from multiple other Colleges across the Australian National University (ANU). We also invited partners from the private sector, including large global firms, small scale ‘start-ups’, individuals from the NGO/not-for-profit sector, and representatives from the public sector. Over the course of the entire Culture Lab there were approximately 150 attendees, with many participating in the entire event. 

Days 1 & 2 Creativity and Collaboration Summit

On the first two days of the event, we hosted a summit where we shared case studies in collaboration and creativity. 

The goals of the Creativity and Collaboration summit were to:

  • provoke new thinking and inspire cross-fertilisation about creativity and collaboration as core capabilities across disciplines and contexts of practice
  • draw on the breadth and depth of knowledge of all Culture Lab participants to draw out insights about enabling creativity and collaboration in diverse organisational and disciplinary contexts
  • articulate enablers of creativity and collaboration to guide action by the university going forward

Researchers and practitioners share their work in exploring issues related to technology, design and future oriented problem solving. The common theme that emerged from the first day was an understanding of the impact technology driven change has on humans and the planet, and the importance of a commitment to improving how we manage our physical and digital resources for maximum positive impact. These presentations were following by workshops where small groups were engaged in deep exploration of new models of practice to collectively explore the technical, ethical and logistical challenges of the multi-dimensional problems computer science and engineering work addresses and creates. 

We also ran a collaborative workshop exploring the enablers of creativity and collaboration, especially in relation to university contexts. 

Day 3 – CoDesign with Reimagine Fellows

Codesign workshops consisted of leaders in the field sharing reflections and provocations to explore innovation in teaching and learning covering topics of leadership, creativity, collaboration, innovation, and social benefit. People working within the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science ran co-design workshops to further projects they were working. 

Day 4 – Education Lab

The final day of the event aimed to identify future priorities for engineering and computer sciences education. All the participants in the event came together to explore what computer science education could look like in the next 30 years. They were split into small groups to deep dive into potential challenges and solutions facing education in CECS, exploring ways in which they could be approached from diverse perspectives and synthesising their ideas to apply to current and future studies. By the end of the day, we co- designed a diverse set of design criteria to guide where we want to go and how we might get there. 


While the ReImagine investment was indefinitely interrupted by COVID-19, there are still many lessons to be taken away from the Co-Design Culture Lab event.

The Culture Lab event culminated in four key achievements:

  1. Creating new partnership opportunities, within the university and with key external organisations
  2. Establishing a network of ‘Critical Friends’ to help each other assess and improve processes and projects
  3. Modelling approaches to CoDesign and collaboration
  4. Designing criteria to assess future action within the Reimagine investment

You can read the full report from the event here and listen to Reimagine STEM a podcast created from the event featuring a range of speakers and workshop leaders.