Research Report TU Delft Project IDOLS*
Project IDOLS was developed to help increase the labour market for the creative and cultural sector and to seize opportunities that exist in the context of complex challenges. But did the IDOLS way of working also deliver what IDOLS had intended? And what should IDOLS 2 look like? Four researchers from TU Delft researched the learning outcomes.
Want to go straight to the full report? Read it on the IDOLS website
Was IDOLS a ‘playground’ for experimentation or a ‘training camp’ for a winning team? And did the cultural and creative companies and organisations participate to get to know new partners and learn together, to make even better use of the creative process, to perform even better, or to make use of existing coalitions? Not everyone approached IDOLS the same way. Four researchers; Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer (Associate Professor), Marie Van den Bergh (strategic designer and researcher), Eva Legemaate (designer and researcher) and Jotte de Koning (Assistant Professor) looked into it. Seventeen coaches and secretaries were interviewed, and fifty participants completed a survey.
What did IDOLS result in? In the context of 'increasing the labour market for the creative and cultural industries', IDOLS provided the participants with important insights about the exploitation of the creative process, about collaboration in large multi-stakeholder projects and about the (desired) role in such a complex project. But participation also resulted in new relationships important for future collaborations, and above all, it also generated a lot of energy and motivation to continue with a challenge: important for continuous social innovation.
Complex challenges cannot be solved with one or a few interventions. These challenges consist of problems that are related, influence each other and are constantly subject to change. That is why complex challenges must be approached by step-by-step and continuous experimentation. At the same time, the system from which they originate has to be continually pushed one step further in the desired direction. Not only should the direct impact of a single project be considered, but also its influence on possible follow-up steps. This process is also called continuous social innovation.
What can we learn from IDOLS for future programmes? If the main goal of IDOLS is to provide participants with learning experiences and to gain new knowledge and skills, then there are a number of factors that seem to contribute to this. For example, it is easy to imagine that participants who work with well-known colleagues in a way that they have done before and that they are familiar with will learn less or different things than participants who form new partnerships and try new ways of working. The openness to learning and the participants' experience with these types of projects also influence the learning outcomes.
Back to the metaphors ‘playground’ and ‘training camp’: different forms of collaboration require different design and support. A coaching role is less important in a project with experienced participants and partnerships. And when a project is seen as a playground or experimental space, more support is needed for problem owners and investors to be able to account for the (indirect) value of such projects.
In both forms, equality proved to be crucial in tackling complex challenges. When participants positioned themselves in a traditional division of roles between contractor and client, problems could arise: for example, fewer opportunities and less motivation for problem owners to be actively involved.
If IDOLS is considered a prototype, consideration should be given to a follow-up. If room is created for a similar programme, the researchers have the following recommendations:
- Including a learning infrastructure for the coaches;
- Translating the traditional client-contractor positions in favour of mutual equality in the project design;
- At the start, (more) explicitly include the learning demand and motivation of the participants, and adding a personal research agenda.
Read the full report on the IDOLS website