Designing Social Innovation

Designing Social Innovation is a research project exploring the role of design and the designer in process of social change. By ‘social innovation’, I refer to change processes driven from the bottom up, from within communities or by citizens, consumers or interest groups, through which wider social practices and systems, beliefs and authority, are profoundly altered. Social innovation is a transdisciplinary field, and my research learns from theories and methods in the social sciences, futures studies, policy and management. I relate these to critical and participatory practices of design, in which designers take part in framing and staging change processes within households, neighborhoods and civic arenas. In order to apply learnings from these disciplines to design and, vice versa, to argue for the relevance of design in society and the public sector, I am studying exemplary projects of designing for social innovation. In this, I query the role of designed materials, technologies and methods in sustainability initiatives around issues such as energy, waste, land use and urban planning.

The project is conducted through a survey and case studies of relevant projects and a research fellowship at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology (US). For the survey and cases, I have spent time at Parsons The New School for Design (US), the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Design (DK) and the Industrial Design Engineering department at the Delft University of Technology (NL) and made visits to the African Center for Cities and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (ZA), Art Center of Design (US), Goldsmiths College at the University of London (UK), the Sristi School of Art, Design and Technology (IN), and other institutions in the US and Europe. Research results include a number of collaborative activities including workshops and courses, special sessions at conferences, co-authored publications and funding applications for future work. This set-up for the project reflects the need to understand the role of design in social innovation from a transdisciplinary and international standpoint, through which multiple research, professional and local communities have a stake in urgent societal issues.

Image (above)
Documentation of group work that I moderated for the ‘Open Design for Organizational Innovation’ workshop organized by Laura Forlano for Parsons The New School and Cornell University, at St. Nick's Alliance, New York, 2011

My role
I am the leader of this project, which is funded between 2010-2013 by VINNOVA, the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems, through the VINNMER–Marie Curie program. It involves collaboration with Johan Redström at the Interactive Institute and with faculty from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology including Judith Gregory and Laura Forlano.

See also

/ Projects / DESIGN ACT

/ Teaching / Thesis projects / Keshavarz, M., 'Forms of Resistance', MA thesis in Experience Design, 2011.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (2013) ‘Socio-Ecological Innovation: Cases of sustainable urban development and design’.

/ Publications / Wangel, J., Mazé, R., de Jong, A., and Höjer, M. (2012) ‘Backcasting and Design for Sustainable Social Practices’.

/ Publications / Mazé, R., Gregory, J., and Redström, J. (2011) ‘Social Sustainability’.

/ Publications / Avila, M., Carpenter, J., and Mazé, R. (2010) ‘3Ecologies: Visualizing sustainability factors and futures’.

/ Publications / de Jong, A., and Mazé, R. (2010) ‘Cultures of Sustainability: “Ways of doing” cooking’.

/ Publications / Ericson, M., and Mazé, R. (eds) (2010) DESIGN ACT.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (ed) (2010) Static! Designing for Energy Awareness.

/ Publications / Mazé, R., and Önal, B. (2010) ‘Hands on the Future’.

/ Events / Lectures, seminars and workshops, 2002+