Carla Cipolla, international coordinator of the DESIS Network (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability), led the workshop entitled “Design for Social Innovation: methodologies and practices between university and broader society” at the first LASIN International Conference – Latin American Social Innovation Network – in Panama.

Workshop objectives:

  • Explore and discuss practices of design thinking for social innovation in Latin-America
  • Present the approach of design thinking for social innovation, including its methodologies and tools
  • Share the experiences of DESIS Network and its labs in developing, promoting and supporting social innovations in the intersection between universities and the broader society.

The workshop explored the practice of design thinking for social innovation and its methodologies by presenting the experiences of DESIS Network.  DESIS operate through more than 40 labs,  which explore the intersection between university and the broader society in many different countries all over the world, including those in Latin-America.

The workshops followed a four steps process:

  • Presentation of design for social innovation definition, methodologies and tools;
  • Presentation of the DESIS experiences;
  • Exercise (on groups) on design thinking for social innovation; and
  • Discussion about this practice in Latin-America.

 Development and results

There were participants from different Latin-American countries: Chile, Panamá, Venezuela, Peru, Honduras.

After a discussion about the definition of social innovation, participants were invited, in the first part of the workshop, to share and analyse social innovation cases in their countries.  Many cases were identified.

This was followed by a discussion around the interpersonal relational qualities of social innovations, in each case. These were the cases:

  • Venezuela:
    • Organization of networks for the purchase of medicine in response to the humanitarian crisis
    • use whatsapp to coordinate
    • “Pie de cola” – transportation system among strangers (university students)
  • Panama:
    • “Madres Mestras” – early childhood education solution, collaborative care
    • Scaled as public policy
  • Peru:
    • “Olla Común” – response to the humanitarian crisis
    • Neighbors share food and responsibilities in the kitchen
    • Scaled as public policy (“Comedores populares”)
  • Honduras:
    • Insecurity – how to make social innovation in context with high mistrust due to violence and crimes

The challenges and benefits of designing for these qualities were discussed.  Different dynamics were identified, such as the loss of community and interpersonal values when cases are scaled up, or how ICTs (for example, “apps”) are being considered extensively as a tool for solving social problems, which can find also good answers in face-to-face and local solutions.

The distinction between designing for relations and collaborations was also discussed.  Solutions based on collaborations between participants does not necessarily require face-to-face and interpersonal interaction (we do not need to know others “by name”).  Solutions based on interpersonal relations and encounters require the development of values such as trust and intimacy between participants.

See the full conference program:


LASIN Network

LASIN is a network that works to introduce a new model of socio-economic commitment of the University based on the combination of curricular and extracurricular activities, materials and teaching tools, practical training, mentoring, and the development of specific support units that are dedicated to strengthening the Universities’ links with the wider social environment. The project will result in a new paradigm for knowledge transfer within universities, supporting the concept of social innovation as key to social development and cohesion at both a regional and international level.

Funded by the European Commission, the project involves a consortium of thirteen partners, including eleven universities, with Glasgow Caledonian University coordinating as the lead partner. The project’s activities will be based within four Latin American regions – Mercosur (based in Chile), Comunidad Andina (based in Colombia), Brazil and Central America (based in Panama).


Participation of the UFRJ/Coppe DESIS Lab in the LASIN Network

UFRJ / Coppe DESIS Lab is one of the members of the LASIN project and its Social Innovation Support Unit, called USIS / UFRJ, is already functioning.

USIS/UFRJ counts on the participation of 25 students and 12 professors and technicians from areas such as Undergraduate in Industrial Engineering, Post Graduation in Production Engineering, Graduation in Administration and Accounting Sciences, Post Graduation in Administration; Graduation in Gastronomy and the Innovation Agency of UFRJ.