Designing Social Innovation

Driven by sustainability, the ‘third industrial revolution’ signifies new research and innovation opportunities in green technology and ICT. However, the social, cultural, and gender aspects of sustainable development indicate the need for an interdisciplinary and international approach. Addressing such industrial and societal issues, Designing Social Innovation is a research project exploring the role of interaction design in processes of sustainable social change. The project learns from theories and methods in the social sciences, futures studies, policy and management to study bottom-up change processes within households, communities and civic arenas. Through case studies of exemplary projects in New York, Copenhagen and Delft, as well as a global survey, roles are identified for design in mediating controversies around green space, housing and transport, rehearsing possible civic futures with diverse social groups, and enacting more sustainable practices around food, hygiene and waste.

The project is motivated by the need for:

  • Research foundations Interaction design is a recent but rapidly growing field, and there is a pressing need to develop academic foundations applicable to sustainable development. This project contributes through advancing user research methods and critical theories from the social sciences.
  • Innovation demonstrators With a heritage in industrial design and engineering, interaction design retains certain material- and energy-intensive logics of mass-production. In this project, we develop formulations and highlight examples of alternative value propositions based on social innovation.

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). 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.

Designing Social Innovation was led by Ramia Mazé and between 2010 and 2013 funded 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.


Read the press release here (in Swedish): Forskare på Interactive Institute får finansiering för treårig internationell forskarmeritering.