The Annual DESIS Assembly happened earlier this week, via Zoom, and reunited around 50 people from more than ten countries to discuss the activities developed in 2020 and also the next steps of the network. This Assembly marked an important transition between International Coordinations. Carla Cipolla, from  Brazil, was the DESIS International Coordinators for the past 4 years. The role now is up to Teresa Franqueira, from Portugal, who should lead the International team for the next 2 years.

The meeting started with a brief welcoming by Cipolla, and then she proceeded to recap a little history about the network. Her presentation, entitled “A four years journey:  past, present and future of DESIS” covered a lot of fundamental moments to the network, such as: the developing of the Thematic Map (which led to the Thematic Areas articles, booklets, etc); the Annual Assemblies held each year in different cities – and going online this year because of Covid; and the people who contributed to the network over the years. “It’s not only to showcase, but also to have new ideas and discussions among us”, she said about the Assemblies.

Cipolla’s presentation was followed by a speech from Ezio Manzini, DESIS Network founder and president, entitled “A difficult moment, an important change”. Based on the points listed in Cipolla’s recap, Manzini reframed the basic question that moved DESIS Network activities a decade ago: from “Who are we” to “Where are we”. This adjustment is necessary because everything changes so fast these days, due to many different situations, and we need to refocus not only where we are, but also the relationships we’re creating and fostering, and especially the role of Design schools – which are the main connections between us and the students”, he affirmed.

Following the program, Manzini presented the new International Coordinator: Teresa Franqueira, from ID+ DESIS Lab, at Aveiro University, Portugal.

Franqueira presented herself and a little history of her areas of interest and work, such as  sustainability and service design. When sharing her proposed plans for the next two years, Franqueira agreed with Manzini in what concerns the “refocus” of the Network. Besides that, she intends to promote a few new initiatives for different, but related, topics, like “Talks for the Planet” to raise a sustainability perspective; “Bring a Friend” invitation, to promote DESIS and amplify its range; and the “DESIS Café”, a moment of informal talking and conversations between DESIS members to foster community building within the network – this one would be online for now, because of Covid.

The DESIS Students initiative was the next topic of the Assembly. During a presentation conducted by Ingrid Bico, a Design student at Rio DESIS Lab (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), the participants could see how the International Coordination Team have been working for more than a year to accomplish a challenging proposal: create a network focused on the students of DESIS. The idea of this initiative is to be a safe space to the discussion, based on mutual learning processes and collaborative mentorships to create a strong and resilient community. Ingrid talked about all the workshops and meetings that led to the proposal of a few student-led projects, which should be implemented over the first semester of 2021.

Finally, to conclude the program, Franqueira presented the “DESIS Statements 2020: a collaborative movement for the future”. Earlier this year, a DESIS Manifesto started to be written, based on DESIS Conversations 2020 – an initiative to discuss the present and the future of social innovation, design and DESIS itself. “In this discussion, and considering the fast changes we are facing today, it was considered that this should be an open document to be revisited every year. To capture the evolving nature of the document, it was renamed DESIS Statements 2020”, she explained.

After highlighting the main points of the document, the discussion was open to all participants, who made comments and provided feedback about the new initiatives, the future of DESIS, and also listed suggestions to improve the connections among DESIS Members.