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Food for Thought at the EU Lab

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The EU Lab, currently delivered by Wessel Badenhorst via Innovate Dublin on behalf of Dublin’s Culture Connects provides a creative space for experimentation, new partnership development and modelling new ways of working with the people of Dublin. This is done through the co-creation and co-development of EU projects, in partnership with Dublin City Council, for funding applications to the EU.

In commencing any new project, the EU Lab must understand the needs of the stakeholders or users, prior to the formation of a concept note and proposal (in partnership with other cities), which would form the basis from which a funding application would be prepared.

The EU Lab have been working on a ‘Food & Culture’ theme. The first step for the EU Lab was to understand participants needs. People with an interest in the project area and the theme were identified by Dublin’s Culture Connects for an event on 16 June 2017 at the Wood Quay Venue, at Dublin City Council’s Civic Offices. Innovate Dublin also worked with a local events start-up, Connect the Dots who organised the event. The idea is, that based on shared interests and dominant themes, local and European partners can be sourced.

Everyone in the room had an interest in food, whether academically, professionally (food writers and entrepreneurs) or via social enterprises and community initiatives.

There was a broad focus for the day. We wanted to mine how local food-related activities and attitudes reflect the changes happening in the city. That could manifest itself demographically, in neighbourhoods, as a functioning society, as well as in response to global challenges, for instance, the need for sustainable development and living. We knew, a lot of conversation was needed!

EU Lab Food Event 160617P1110357

‘Food culture’ was one of the main development themes from the afternoon’s session. Food culture is simply the variety of ways people produce, prepare and use food socially in a specific location. Four broad themes emerged from the discussions, namely:

  • Food culture as a means for local economic development
  • Food culture as a means for creative expression
  • Food culture as a means for place making
  • Food culture as a means for social change

When addressing these themes, a lot of ideas flowed from the event that could become concepts for future projects. As advocates of social inclusion and allowing communities to connect through culture, it was heartening to hear such eagerness for embedding a sense of place and belonging in Dublin through activities relating to food.

Communal feasts organised at street level in local neighbourhoods/parks/greens inspired by ‘Street Feast’ was just one idea raised. Another involved using food to integrate people from ethnic minorities and differing backgrounds using the ‘Our Table’ model to encourage food culture in neighbourhoods.

The discussions led to some wonderfully inventive ideas. Thoughts on how to stimulate innovation in the preparation, packaging and experience of food in the city included hosting food ‘hackathons’, ‘meetups’ and ‘making’ workshops. These workshops would allow for foodies, techies, makers and creatives to mash ideas and experiment with new possibilities leading to new concepts around Dublin’s food culture. Contributors on the day were also very mindful of the need to reduce carbon emissions in the delivery of packaging and distribution.

EU Lab Food Event 160617P1110381

It was particularly interesting to hear ideas shared and debated of potential events and activities that could come out of the meeting of minds that day in Wood Quay. The notion of using food to facilitate social inclusion allowed the participants’ creative juices to flow. There was a lot of enthusiasm around creating exhibitions and installations of ‘food as art’ to stimulate citizens to use their senses to explore new possibilities in food and its social impacts.

The EU Lab aims to increase the number of successful EU-funding applications across Dublin City, by supporting and encouraging participation in the process and developing their expertise in putting together often complex applications.

Find out more on the EU Lab HERE

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