How can design leverage social-innovation to orient city-making processes towards resilient, sustainable and collaborative cities? This question has been the general background on which the DxCM (Design for Collaborative Cities) Conference was built with a long preparation work [th a long preparation work [DxCC presentation].

The Conference itself has been held the 28th and 29th October 2018, in Shanghai, at the Tongji University, being organised by the College of Design and Innovation Tongji University and DESIS Network. DxCC was also a pre-Cumulus conference and had, as a content partner, SIX, Social Innovation Exchange. Most importantly, it has been the first big event in this roadmap of DESIS Thematic Cluster on Collaborative Cities (TCxCC)  (other similar events, developing the same research thread, will follow).

In short words it can be said that the Conference discussions moved from the initial question (that one quoted at the beginning of these notes) to the following emerging one: how can design (and design schools) help to bridge the bottom-up city making processes with the top-down ones. That is, how can design (and design schools) help to connect the grassroots initiatives (which are fundamental in every possible collaborative city development) with policies aiming at supporting them (i.e. the policies which are necessary to transform the grassroots experimentations in lasting collaborative socio-technical systems).

This new, more focused question appeared in the conference conversations triggered by a number of invited speakers: Lou Yongqi, Tongji, Ezio Manzini, DESIS Network, Ni Minqing, Tongji (who also have been the conference co-organizers) and: John Thackara, Door of Perception; Louise Pulford, Social Innovation Exchange; Francois Jegou, SDS; So Jung Rim, Social Innovation Exchange; Albert Fuster, Elisava; Davide Fassi, Politecnico di Milano; Adam Thorpe, Central Saint Martin; Fang Zhong, Tsinghua; Arzu Mistry, Srishti; Carla Cipolla, DESIS Network and UFRJ; Lorenzo Imbesi, Cumulus and Università La Sapienza, Rome.

More in details, the conference has been introduced by three keynote speeches presenting, each one of them, three possible and desirable scenarios:

– the regenerative city;
– the socially innovative city and
– the collaborative city

These scenarios have been followed by some city stories, presenting what is going on in four real cities (Seoul, Barcelona, Milano, Shanghai) where the ideas of collaboration are having the main role in shaping both the bottom-up initiatives and in top-down policies.

Given this wide and rich background, three main research topics, coming from the Thematic Cluster Collaborative Cities, have been presented:

– Design for social cohesion;
– Design for commons regeneration and
– Design for urban infrastructure

Finally, the discussion has moved to specific design strategies and tools, proposing different examples (by Tongji; Srishti; and Elisava) and points of view (by DESIS Network and Cumulus Association). Each section of the conference has been followed by round tables and debates open to the whole audience. It is from this rich debate that the one previously indicated as “the emerging question” clearly appeared, proposing itself as the core of the next DxCC Conference.


Click the links below for the (unedited) videos of the speeches (when available).

View all DxCC videos in DESIS Network channel (YouTube)

Video list:

Opening remarks:

Lou Yongqi, Tongji University

Ezio Manzini, DESIS Network

Views on collaborative cities:

Regenerative city. John Thackara, Doors of Perception

• Socially innovative city. Louise Pulford, Social Innovation Exchange

Collaborative city. Francois Jegou, Strategic Design Scenarios, Brussels, Belgium

City stories:

Seoul, So Jung Rim, Social Innovation Exchange

Barcelona, Albert Fuster, Elisava, Barcelona School of Design and Engineering

Milano, Davide Fassi, Politecnico di Milano

Shanghai, Ni Minqing, Tongji University

Design research topics: presentations and examples:

Design for social cohesion. Adam Thorpe, University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martin

Design for commons regeneration. Davide Fassi, Politecnico di Milano

Design for urban infrastructure. Fang Zhong, Tsinghua University

DISCUSSION (Ezio Manzini, Fang Zhong, Adam Thorpe and Davide Fassi)

Design strategies and tools/1: Design Schools

Tongji and city making, Lou Yongqi, Tongji University

Srishti and city making Arzu Mistry, Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology

Elisava and city making Albert Fuster, Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering

Design strategies and tools/2: Networks

DESIS and city making, Carla Cipolla, DESIS Network and UFRJ, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Cumulus and city making, Lorenzo Imbesi, Cumulus and Università La Sapienza

DISCUSSION (François Jègou, Albert Fuster, Arzu Mistry, Carla Cipolla and Lorenzo Imbesi)