About the coordination project 2017-2017: here

DESIS Network originates from three main international activities in the 2006-2008 period: the European research EMUDE, 2005; the UNEP Program CCSL, 2008 and the international conference “Changing the Change, within the framework of Torino World Design Capital, 2008.
In different ways, these activities introduced the notions of creative community and social innovation in several design schools worldwide and created favourable conditions to start an international network on these topics.
The main ideas behind it were that social innovation could be a powerful driver towards sustainability and that design schools could help in supporting and accelerating the process. In 2009, this network took the name of DESIS: Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability. In the 2009-2011 period, DESIS spread in several regions of the world, establishing partnerships with other entities and evolving towards a network of Design Labs based in design schools and in other design-oriented universities and operating with local, regional and global partners to promote and support social change towards sustainability.”
Within this worldwide framework, some DESIS Labs located in the same area decided to connect and coordinate with each other to discuss regional specificities and develop regional programs (UK, Asia).
Since September 2014, DESIS is a no-profit and cultural association, with the purpose to promote design for social innovation in higher education institutions with design discipline so as to generate useful design knowledge and to create meaningful social changes in collaboration with other stakeholders.


In the complexity of contemporarysociety, social innovation is spreadingand its potential, as a driver of sustainable change, is increasing. To facilitate this process, the design community, in general, and design schools, in particular, can play a pivotal role.



Social innovation is a new idea that works in meeting social goals” (Mulgan, 2006). In other words, social innovation can be seen as a process of change emerging from the creative re-combination of existing assets (social capital, historical heritage traditional craftsmanship, accessible advanced technology) and aiming at achieving socially recognized goals in new ways. A kind of innovation driven by social demands rather than by the market and/or autonomous techno-scientific research, and generated more by the actors involved than by specialists.



Over the past decade social innovation has spread: a variety of social actors throughout the world (institutions, enterprises, non-profit organizations and, most of all, networks of collaborative people) have moved outside mainstream models of thinking and doing, generating a variety of promising initiatives such as community-supported agriculture,
co-housing, carpooling, community gardens, neighbourhood care, talent exchange and time banks. These initiatives propose viable solutions to complex problems of the present (e.g., social cohesion, urban regeneration, healthy food accessibility, water and sustainable energy management) and, at the same time, they represent working prototypes of sustainable ways of living.



Today, social innovation is generating a constellation of small initiatives. Nevertheless, if favourable conditions are created, these small, local social inventions and their working prototypes can spread. They can be scaled-up, consolidated, replicated and integrated with larger programs to generate large-scale sustainable changes. To do that, new design competences are needed. Indeed, social innovation processes require visions, strategies and co-design tools to move from ideas to mature solutions and viable programs. . That is, they ask for new design capabilities that, as a whole, can be defined as design for social innovation.



Design for social innovation can find in the design schools a major driver for its application and diffusion. In fact, design schools (and, more in general, all the design-oriented universities) can orient their didactic and research activities towards social innovation. That is, they can become design laboratories where new visions are generated, new tools are defined and tested and where new projects are started and supported. If a worldwide movement towards sustainability calls for the best possible use of all existing resources, design schools, with all their potential in terms of students’ enthusiasm and faculty experience, should be considered a very promising social resource: a potentially powerful promoter of sustainable change.


DESIS Network aims at using design thinking and design knowledge to co-create, with local, regional and global partners, socially relevant scenarios, solutions and communication programs.


DESIS Network main aim is to use design thinking and design knowledge to trigger, enable and scale-up social innovation. That is:
  • To enhance its potential by creating a more favorable environment (social, cultural, political, economic).
  • To raise its visibility by searching for promising initiatives and communicating their existence and significance to a larger audience.
  • To facilitate its transferability by developing enabling solutions to make existing initiatives more effective, accessible and replicable in different contexts
  • To increase its synergy by developing frameworks and platforms to connect the diverse local cases into larger regional projects.
  • To stimulate new initiatives, by proposing visions and solutions as seeds to be developed

in open, collaborative interactions with local communities and other involved actors.


DESIS Network’s second aim is to clarify the design for social innovation potential both inside and outside the design community. That is:
  • To make it clearer, inside the design community (designers, design researchers, design media and design schools), that social innovation is, and will continue to be at least for the near future, a fundamental field of application for all the design disciplines.
  • To give social innovators tangible evidence of the potential of design thinking and design knowledge in supporting the processes in which they are involved.



DESIS Network’s most ambitious aim is to promote a broad and flexible design program. A design program where several local, regional and global projects may converge, reinforce each other and generate innovative scenarios and solutions. Our desire is to produce knowledge with the contribution of different partners (open processes) and that can be
used by all stakeholders (open results). In short the DESIS Network’s higher ambition is to generate an Open Design Program able to give different projects visibility, to facilitate their alignments, collaborations and synergies and, on these bases, to develop visions and proposals adequate to the great challenges of contemporary society.


Members can be legally constituted higher education institutions or Universities with design disciplines (hereinafter referred to also only as “higher education institutions” or only as “Universities”), private or public, sharing DESIS motivations and visions and supporting DESIS activities (Labs projects, international Initiatives, Platform improvements).
Each Member commits itself to establish and sustain a design lab in its higher education institutions that conforms to the requirements of a DESIS Lab.
DESIS Labs are groups of academics, researchers and students who orient their design and research activities towards social innovation. They operate at the local scale with local partners and, in collaboration with other DESIS Labs, they actively participate in large-scale projects and programs.
Beyond that, each Member-DESIS Lab will:
  • collaborate in promoting and developing at least one DESIS Initiative.
  • participate in the annual DESIS Assembly
  • present a short report on their activities and programs at the annual Assembly.

At the Assembly “non Member Partners” (Universities non Members and other legal entities non Members)can be invited , without right to vote, interested to the activities of the Association.


DESIS NETWORK operates as a constellation of Labs and Lab-Initiatives, supported by a Platform. Each one of these Labs belongs to its own University and has organizational and administrative autonomy with respect to the Association.
The overall political, cultural and organizational direction of DESIS NETWORK is given by the Assembly that approves the Annual Program planned by the International Coordinator (with the International Coordination Committee and the Platform Team) and the President.
The International Coordinator (with the International Coordination Committee and the Platform Team) and the President put into effects the approved Program.
Each Member indicates, for one or more years, a Lab Coordinator that will be representative of the Member in the annual Assembly.


DESIS Labs are administratively and economically autonomous entities: each one of them has its own budget and is administrated by the higher educational institutions where that Lab is based.
DESIS Initiatives are the actions that results from specific written agreement between two or more Members. In this agreement every administratively and economically outstanding (budget/obligations granted by the involved higher education institutions with design discipline and the managers of the agreement) aspects will be stated.


The DESIS Platform is managed and the costs covered, as part of the IC’s Program. It has the same administrative and economic structure of a DESIS Initiative.


All the DESIS governance roles are pro bono. The only remunerated activities, by each Member or by each DESIS Initiative if it is the case, are the ones performed by the Platform Team in the economic framework of the principle of Association said at art. 2, “The Association doesn’t have own funds because each Member bears own expenses in the area of the Association and no common expenses for the Association will be taken”.


Private or public higher education institutions, sharing the DESIS vision and rules, can support specific projects (administrated by a DESIS Lab or a DESIS Initiative) and become DESIS Members.


The outcomes of this association, that is of the DESIS activities, are public, open source and will belong to Creative commons “Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0)” license, save in duly justified exceptional cases.
The authors, after having verified to hold the necessary requirements, undertake to submit their work under a CC license.