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In a cozy room in the bright yellow Dutch Consulate building on 100 Strand Street, members of the press gathered to hear the exciting announcement: The Government of the Netherlands will invest R4.5 million in World Design Capital 2014.

This investment will take form in a three-week long event, entitled Department of Design, which is set to take place 8-27 July in the Provenance Auction House space at 8 Vrede Street in the Cape Town CBD.

Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation will lead an economic trade mission to South Africa on 7-8 July to take part in the Department of Design programme, which features workshops, presentations, debates and activities that focus on incorporating best Dutch design practices to address sustainability challenges in South Africa.

“Department of Design symbolizes the changing relationship between our two countries, from aid to trade and from giving to sharing,” said Bonnie Horbach, Dutch Consul General in Cape Town.

Both Minister Ploumen and representatives from a number of leading Dutch companies will attend the event with interest in matchmaking opportunities with South African counterparts in water management, transport and logistics, agriculture and farming, health and science and creative industries.

An initiative of the Consulate, together with the Dutch Top Team for Creative Industries and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), Department of Design will be created with Dutch design company Droog and Programme Director Christine de Baan in the Provenance Auction House space.

The Department of Design programme is currently in development. The Dutch Consulate General is engaging in Round Table discussions with South African and Dutch experts to co-create a programme that address the relevant issues facing South Africans where Dutch expertise can be shared.

“With Department of Design, we create a platform for knowledge exchange where, through the perspective of design as an agent of change, we can lay the groundwork for long-term solutions,” said Christine de Baan.

“As a result of this participatory approach, we hope to gain mutual appreciation and continued collaboration after 2014, as well as the possibility for innovations that resonate beyond Cape Town, and prove valuable for other urban areas in South Africa and the world.”

The space will include a cafe and workspaces with WiFi where people can sit, meet and work, and a play area for children with educational toys engineered by Dutch designers. Organizations such as schools, local businesses and artistic groups will also be able to request the use of the exhibition space for events, performances, or meetings. The area, which strives to be multi-purpose and dynamic, invites the people of Cape Town to make the space their own.

Locally, the programme is supported by Design Indaba Founder Ravi Naidoo; Laurine Platzky, Western Cape Deputy Director-General of Provincial Strategic Management; Richard Perez, Programme Director for World Design Capital 2014; and Future Cape Town.

“Our organization has been a platform for raising the discourse on major sustainability issues for close to four years,” said Future Cape Town Director Rashiq Fataar. “With Department of Design we create a working laboratory to tackle them even further by throwing a creative spotlight on the need to collaborate for change.”

Through cooperation and collaboration, the Dutch and South Africans seek to co-create a better South Africa.

Fittingly so, the hashtag for the program is #cocreateSA. Any questions or thoughts on the program can be expressed via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using this hashtag.

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