Pittsfield, MA

Contact Name
Helena Fruscio
Project Dates
2007 - Present
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2011
Tags
Networking, Workforce Development
The Creative Challenge was born from “Design It Here, Make It Here”; an initiative outlined in the 2007 Berkshire Creative Economy Report, which suggested developing a campaign to explore the interest in and capacity for manufacturers in the county to take on the production of “creative products.” The report identified that, “Likely candidates would be those companies that manufacture plastics, metal, fabrics, and wood products, as well as those involved in printing.” In fall of 2008 Berkshire Creative partnered with a local business Interprint, Inc. to define the nature, format and criteria of this evolved 'Design it here, Make it here" concept - The Berkshire Creative Challenge.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
The goal of the Creative Challenge is to connect Berkshire manufacturers and businesses with local designers, engineers and creative workers with the aim of stimulating innovative research and development for existing and/or new product lines. This can be anything from the re-visioning of existing products, generating new ideas and concepts for existing production methods, to introducing a brand new product line. The Creative Challenge provides various benefits to different levels of the creative economy. The first are the companies receiving the ideas to add their product lines and getting access to local talent and the second are benefits the creative individuals and businesses participating and getting paid fair market value for those ideas. To be totally clear this is not a "design competition" with a single winner and a the rest are losers. This is more of an "opportunity" for the creative industry, rather than a competition. The key for the Challenge is is that the company can contract with any number of creatives for any number of ideas and the creatives are paid fair market value. The requirement is that the Challenge has to be about the Company's main product and not promotional material.
Have they changed over time?
No.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
The stakeholders are always the company hosting the challenge and then the creative industry. This simplicity allows the company to completely work the Challenge into their operations and opens doors for and creative individual or business to develop a one time or long standing relationship with this company.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
Berkshire Creative has created a boilerplate process that the business is able to tailor fit to their operations and product lines. The process goes as follows: 1. Sit with business to refine process, 2. Release application, 3. Select participants, 4. Behind the Scenes Day, 5. Idea submissions. Each business is able to suggest changes to the standard applications, which is comprised of two basic questions: What is your creative process and how does that creative process relate to the company? The businesses are also able to ask for images, resumes, or other materials that will aid in the selection process. The application is built on Survey Monkey and then Berkshire Creative announces the Challenge on our communication vehicles including website, email blast, social network, and media outlets such as news papers, radio, etc. Once the applications are collected and the deadline has passed the company creates a panel to review the applicants. The company knows their business and product line better than anyone and this panel should use this expertise to vet applicants. Each panelist is given the pack of applicants and are asked to give each a rating from 1-5 (5 being the best) without discussion. Then the results are compared and discussed. Another important distinction in this part of the process: panel is only selecting people to be part of the Behind the Scenes Day NOT saying that they will definitely be contracting these creatives. The panelist are always asked to be more inclusive at this part, as they are really only adding people to the Day and applicants can always be better in person than on paper. During the Behind the Scenes day, the selected participants learn about the company's production, product, business and most importantly the Challenge itself. (Pictures of this process are then distributed to our communications network.) The creatives are then given about a month to let the information sink in and develop and idea that are then submitted to the Company. This part of the Challenge is always different depending on the company/product. The various options are one-on-one meetings, image submissions, or a process that the company might already have in place. Picking the winners is different in every business. They might have various ways of winning - people who they are adding to a resource database, or people they want to help develop their ideas, or most frequently it results in a contract or purchasing a product or idea. The results are again widely publicized.
Have they been refined over time?
Above is the basic structure that was developed at the beginning and has been slightly revised or clarified over time.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles?
There have been very few obstacles in the implementation of this project. There are always businesses willing to host and many creatives ready to apply. That said there has been need to clarify the Challenge's various aspects. The first obstacle was with the creative community misunderstanding the Challenge and thinking it was a "competition". As you may know, the design community is very much against design competitions, saying that they hurt the design businesses that should be getting contracts to produce designs. As I mentioned in the section above the key is that everyone is paid fair market value for their ideas, numerous people can win, and that the applications are vetting the PEOPLE not the ideas themselves. Applicants are not asked and even discouraged to submit ideas on the onset. They are selected based on their professional credentials and sometimes work examples. In the final idea submissions the creatives have the ability to negotiate and discuss their ideas with the company.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
As always, money is an obstacle and we have come up with a few ways to generate income. Since we are not a membership organization, but have a "Friends" drive, we ask all applicants to become Friends. We are also starting to ask the businesses for a fee for hosting the challenge to offset some of the administration costs.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
the key is that everyone is paid fair market value for their ideas, numerous people can win, and that the applications are vetting the PEOPLE not the ideas themselves. Applicants are not asked and even discouraged to submit ideas on the onset. They are selected based on their professional credentials and sometimes work examples. In the final idea submissions the creatives have the ability to negotiate and discuss their ideas with the company.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
Instead of the one time benefits of the programs, all of the Challenges have resulted in long term relationships between companies and creatives. Each Challenge ads to the impact for both the businesses and the creative community. Thousands of dollars have changed hands and new products have been created.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
To date: Interprint: 38 Applications, 21 Selected Participants, 1 Design Selected-1 Retainer 3 Honorable Mentions Crane & Co: 49 Applications, 13 Selected Participants, 1 Designer Selected 11 Resource Connections MASS MoCA: 41 Applications 13 Selected Participants 8 Makers Selected, $6,000 worth of products purchased/commissioned Storey Publishing (In Process)
Were there unexpected impacts?
The unexpected impact is the long term benefits for both the companies and the individuals.
CCX Workshop Handout