Home > From research to action – co-design workshop of Cluj Innovation Fellowships

From research to action – co-design workshop of Cluj Innovation Fellowships

October 2020

Cluj Innovation Fellowships (CIF) represent a support mechanism aimed for 2021, as a result of the lessons learned about the collaboration between public and private entities during uncertain circumstances. They are intended to turn into action the results of the research conducted so far.  

The co-design workshop that took place on September 23rd, 2020 was aimed at: 

  • understanding the main design elements of the fellowships, and their importance for potential applicants: thematic focus, type of aid, type of expected changes/outcomes etc.
  • refining the main themes for the fellowships, as derived from the recommendations resulted from the surveys that documented the response of local stakeholders during the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.



For this purpose, we invited various organizations and institutions dealing with the proposed themes or with similar processes, to ask for their perspective and build together the concept of the Cluj Innovation Fellowships.  

The workshop participants were:

CIVICA Association, Association for Community Relations (ARC), World Bank, DoR, Bucharest Community Foundation, Cluj Community Foundation, Făgăraș Research Institute, MKBT: Make Better, Romanian Health Observatory, South-Eastern Europe Rule of Law Program of KAS, and the General Secretariat of the Government.  

Main ideas discussed

The 4 thematic areas of the Cluj Innovation Fellowships:

  • Procurement based on innovative principles. Public procurement procedures focus on the lowest price versus considering criteria such as repair or maintenance costs. During the state of emergency, the decisions to buy certain equipment were not transparent or well-informed and failed to integrate the recommendations made by third parties involved in the emergency response.  
  • Solution journalism. During the pandemic, various organizations, without having relevant experience, proceeded to research processes and develop campaigns for informing the population on various topics. Communication oriented towards solutions (or rather towards progress or making a decision with the imperfect information available at the time) is needed especially in emergency situations, although also necessary in everyday life.  
  • Collaboration protocols. There are no collaboration protocols between public institutions and civil society organizations, which makes it harder to respond quickly and efficiently in emergency situations. Moreover, civil society has no access to contacts in public institutions/hospitals related to certain topics so as to coordinate efforts and centralize needs.  
  • Open data protocols. The emergency situation caused by the pandemic emphasized the lack of transparency in the communication between various stakeholders in the society with regard to needs and the available resources. Overlapping efforts or missing response may be largely diminished through a protocol for collecting, using and sharing data (including support for the implementation of the INSPIRE directive).


The design elements of the fellowships that were discussed:

  • What innovation means within two or three years in any of the areas proposed.
  • What success looks like in any of the initiatives supported through the fellowships after 6 months of implementation: tender specification templates drafted in collaboration with advisory groups free of any conflicts of interest, a process/protocol proposal submitted to relevant authorities, a wider audience interested in a particular theme, developing an agreement between various entities involved, testing and implementing a new way of collaboration between several entities involved.
  • Type of useful support for fellows: access to dialogue with the relevant public authorities for implementing the proposed changes, mentorships with national specialists, access to financial aid, opportunities for sharing experience with other practitioners, access to international experts, coaching for the fellow/fellowship team, wellbeing/psychological support, promotion of provisional results, support for working out a strategy to communicate/share the results.  
  • Fellow profile: academic experience, practical experience in the area, team, interdisciplinarity, experience in working/collaborating with public institutions.

The next steps:

The open call to apply for the Cluj Innovation Fellowships will be launched in April 2021. Until then, we will work to finalize the concept and the schedule, taking into consideration the contributions of our colleagues to whom we are grateful for their participation.  

Cluj Innovation Fellowships represent an activity that is funded by the European Commission via Urban Innovative Actions and the Cluj-Napoca City Hall, as part of the project Cluj Future of Work.

Cluj Future of Work is a project initiated by the Cluj-Napoca Urban Innovation Unit, which was created by Centrul Cultural Clujean (Cluj Cultural Centre) in partnership with the Centre for Civic Innovation and Imagination of Municipality of Cluj-Napoca. 

Cluj Future of Work is co-managed by the Municipality of Cluj-Napoca and Cluj Cultural Centre in a consortium with eight other local organizations: Art and Design University of Cluj-Napoca, Cluj IT Cluster, Intercommunity Development Association Cluj Metropolitan Area (ADI ZMC), Transylvania Creative Industries Cluster, Transylvanian Furniture Cluster, Transylvania International Film Festival, Transylvania IT Cluster, ZAIN Transylvanian Creativity Festival.