The practice consisted of a deep analysis of several groups of prospective users of the Valletta Design Cluster (VDC) facilities
The practice was started in response to the need for the VDC to define who the future users of the building/ facilities would be, and the creation of an ad hoc program for them. It was useful for the depiction of personas and ad hoc activities which will respond to their needs and create a more competitive offer for the VDC. Sets of very specific questions were submitted to the participants in the sessions after briefing them on the project and giving them a tour of the future VDC site. The goal of the questions was to analyse levels of similarity among the participants, so that ideal users could be created by putting together some of these people’s common features, their interests and their comments. Further to this, the data were also useful to generate areas of interest to these users, which are now taken as reference for the creation of the VDC cultural program. Participants came from a variety of different contexts, including residents, SMEs operators, artists and designers, food lovers, students
The gathered feedback turned out to be very diverse and gave us good insight into what people want, which for sure affected our decisions on a variety of aspects, including site management, cultural and resource offer, logistics and more. The visits were attended by people coming from several different stakeholder groups, including residents, SMEs operators, artists and designers, food lovers, students, education officers and more.
No financial resources were involved in this process. 2 officers spent 3 hours a week each to implement the practice for 7 weeks. Preparation phase was about sending emails and calling people interested in these activities, and took around 5 hours of our time each (3 people).
Evidence of success
The VDC could understand who its target audiences are and what they want and expect from the project. This was key for the VDC to build an effective cultural program which differs from other offers in Malta. The consultations were also important to adapt the projections made for the building and its facilities thanks to the points raised by participants, who suggested some specific changes to the equipment list and facilities offered in order to make them more usable by a broader group of people
The VDC acknowledged the immense potential of the bottom-up work being done, which was key and an eye-opener to get closer to users
Potential for learning or transfer
Other organisations in other regions may want to adapt the practice to new (cultural) multi-purpose institutions before the opening. Understanding what your users expect from you and knowing who they are is key for the success of an organisation, no matter its field of operations. This exercise was also useful to see whether and how different groups’ features and interests overlap, and how we could use this condition from an organisational point of view for their benefit. Considering the sprouting of organisations similar to ours in Europe, this good practice could certainly be replicated in many other instances and regions, not to mention it could be replicated by our organisation at different points in time to check the relationship between us and the users, and assess changes which might be needed in order to keep our offer fresh and interesting, and the relationship active.