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How to develop an innovation space to support creativity and design research

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Creating an innovation space at your school is a great way to garner a student’s innovation and creativity. Our goal is to create a space that students can feel as though their ideas will be supported, where failure is not looked at as the worst thing that could happen, but instead is a good learning experience. We want students to be able to have the confidence to unlock the innovators inside them, and give them the confidence to go forward and be leaders in the classroom as well as in their professional careers when they leave school. That’s why a space like this is important to your school’s ecosystem. This space should be designed so the students can interact with each other and work collaboratively very easily.

Need & Goal

The first step in getting anything off the ground is identifying a need. With the information above, look at your school. See what systems are already in place to develop a spirit of creativity and design, and expand on that. How can it be improved, how can it gain more awareness, is there even a system like this in place to begin with? These are key questions to ask yourself before proceeding with this.

The next step would be your goal. What do you hope to achieve with this space, how are you impacting student’s, does this idea take care of the need that you have identified? Once you have a clear goal in mind as well as a need identified it’s time to make this a reality. How do we go about this?  


Your next step would be trying to figure out a location. Some things to consider would be the main body of student’s ability to easily get to this location. Somewhere close to the student center or housing would be preferable. However you also need to consider your school’s resources, where has unallocated space to be used? Where has space that can consolidated to create a new space? Where would you have enough room for students to gather and feel that they can be creative? Once you have decided on a space you can then move onto the next step.



If you’re trying to institute change in your school, you won’t get very far without support. One approach to this is working from the little guy up. Instead of going straight to the President of the University, let’s try addressing this with someone a little more approachable first and start garnering that much needed support. One student’s approach was to go to their library’s director initially. The director of the library was very receptive and was more than happy to speak with those above her to garner support. Eventually it went all the way to the top and had a good following. This seemed to almost ensure the success of the initiative.

A bottom up approach rather than going straight to the top is just one method that could be used however. Depending on the school’s infrastructure another approach might be best. Another thing to consider, is that you must be willing to compromise with the people in charge. Don’t be so unwilling to budge on any of your ideas that you end up losing support and losing a great thing for your school and the students in it.  


Once support has been gathered the next step is funding. Perhaps your school hasn’t allocated funds yet for certain projects or maybe you’ll need to do a funding proposal. If you have to do a funding proposal the thing to keep in mind is that there are timelines for these. Be sure to research your school’s timeline and find out when this needs to be submitted. This can greatly affect your timeline for actually accomplishing your goal.


Your timeline can vary depending on when you get started with your project and how long it takes to decide on a location, gain support, and gain funding. It’s important not to get discouraged. It may take more time than you had envisioned in your idealistic imaginings, but stay persistent and pursue your goal as fast as as can be accomplished without compromising on your original purpose.



Now that you have the support, the location, and the funding what’s next? Decorating! Now you have to decide what will be the most creative environment for students to come to, what will get the creative/innovative juices flowing? What type of furniture are you going to use, what type of technology do you want available to the students, how will you allow big groups of students to collaborate on projects and share new ideas? The answer: Don’t do it alone!

Recruit other students, ask them what they want, ask them what helps them when they’re on their own to be creative. On another note, think about what helps you to be creative. I think we have all heard about Google’s offices...nap pods, couches, people eating on ping pong tables, riding bikes through the office and so forth. Also try to provide as much as access to visualization as possible, this will create an environment to create and give students a better option to express themselves. 3D printers, TV screens, projectors, white boards, big craft papers, foam, scissors, crayons, play dough and etc! Anything you can think of! With your budget that may not be possible, but you get the idea. Think about what makes people comfortable, and get them creative including yourself, and go from there.


Now you’ve got everything in place to get this going so the next step is making students aware! You have the opportunity to go on your first marketing campaign! Social media, fliers around campus, email announcements, you have everything you need at your fingertips to get word out about your project. If you have clubs on campus for innovation and entrepreneurship that’s a great place to start. Get the word out to individuals in this group and see how quickly the fire will spread. Contact your school and get them to send out an email announcement, ensuring that news of your space will reach every student in school. Connect with them on facebook, twitter, instagram, linkedin, flickr! Whatever you can think of! Once word is out and you’ve got things all setup it’s time to watch it take off. Be proud of your accomplishment, you’ve done it!