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Since its foundation, DESIS Network has recognized the value of its labs. Design for social innovation and sustainability is being built (in theory and practice) through all these experiences.  It is possible to observe how active DESIS labs are in fostering social innovation at a local level.

The map below presents an analysis of DESIS Labs projects with the aim of giving them visibility by identifying main sectors and frameworks that are being developed. The first draft below is proposed as part of the international coordination plan for DESIS / 2017-2019.

The map presents the projects organized in a table.  The projects are organized on themes for action and themes for reflection.

Themes for action

  • Food;
  • Making;
  • Clothing;
  • Caring;
  • Housing;
  • Place-making;
  • Others (mobility, tourism, etc)

Themes for reflection

  • Product for social innovation: when products are designed as “boundary objects“;
  • Income generation/entrepreneurship: projects focused on provide support for entrepreneurial or self-employment activities, undertaken by groups (e.g. cooperatives) or individuals, sometimes referred to a specific place;
  • Environmental concern: projects focused on how social innovations can promote environmental sustainability;
  • Co-design: projects that places co-design processes as its the main process and outcome;
  • Design performances: projects that are inspired by performance art, when the actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work, and its main aims are to raise awareness of some issue or to contribute for improving social cohesion;
  • Scenario building/envisioning: projects that reframe the way specific areas or issues are seen; they also create new visions;
  • Design theory and practice: projects that place its focus on a specific issue related to design theory and practice, usually by questioning issues that currently affect design practices;

The DESIS Map (in a table): themes for action X themes for reflection

Each number below indicate one of the projects submitted by the Labs in the process of affiliation to DESIS Network. Numbers in parentheses indicate a secondary thematic area for the same project (in some cases, for analytical purposes, 2 projects were included for a Lab, to include areas and themes that otherwise would not be included in the analysis).

The numbers are clickable, enabling access to a synthetic description of each project (at the bottom of the page, the complete list of the projects analyzed in this report).

Food Making Clothing Caring Housing Place-making Others
Product for SI  12  37  46  23  (12)      30
Service for SI  32     5  24 25  28  33 35  44 22 19 (32)  
Infrastructuring  9          20  31  
Digital SI        16  18 (35)      
Income generation/
 26 27  42  34  29     10  21  7
Environmental concern   43       41    15  (30)
Co-design  (1)  38  8       1  2  3  4  6  (8)  11  (11) 17a  17b
           (6)  13
Scenario building/
      40  45     36  39  
Design theory and practices      (34)        14  (17a  17b)

Map overview

The analysis of the map indicates that DESIS Labs’ projects are concentrated in three thematic areas (highlighted in yellow in the table):

– projects classified as services for SI and including different caring actions;

– projects classified as place-making actions, developed as co-design processes;

– projects distributed in different themes for actions, but all related to income generation/entrepreneurship.

Emerging thematic areas

In synthesis the projects analyzed revealed the following thematic areas:

– Care exchanging:  how to build social forms where care encounters (and mutual caring relationships) are possible, probable and lasting in time?  Focus – care encounters, their interpersonal relational qualities and their enabling service systems..

– Place making: how to build social forms aiming at place-related results, linking people with their physical context? Focus – sense making and co-design processes capable to transform a space in a place.

– Income generating/entrepreneurshiphow to build social forms offering participants also an economic benefit? Focus – relationships between social and economic value production.

Full list of projects

[Download list of projects (PDF)]


1) Coltivando. The convivial garden at Politecnico di Milano (Polimi DESIS Lab)

2) Creative Citizens. A meeting space between designers, citizens, local stakeholders and institutions (Polimi DESIS Lab)

United Kingdom

3) Public Collaboration Lab (University of the Arts London, UAL DESIS Lab)

4) Community, Design & Engagement (Sheffield Hallam University, SIA DESIS Lab)

5) Wisdom Teeth. Oral Health Services to support older people living in residential care (Northumbria DESIS Lab (nDESISlab)


6) Welcome to Saint Gilles (MAD faculty/LUCA arts CUO Social Spaces/DESIS lab Belgium)


7) PARTY Participatory Tools for Human Development with the Youth (University of Lapland Arctic Design Lab Finland)


8) MIL Makers culture and socio-physical urban renewal (Malmö University DESIS LAB)

9) Baking together Alvesta (Linnaeus University DESIS Lab)


10) The role of design in the commercial revitalization of urban centers – “Rua Direita” street in Aveiro, as a case study (ID+ DESIS Lab Portugal, University of Aveiro)


11) Beyond touristic tracks Everyday local development in an exceptional location (ENSCI/Les Ateliers PARIS DESIS Lab)

12) Enabling food distribution Designing tables for Restos du Coeur (ENSCI/Les Ateliers PARIS DESIS Lab)


13) Participatory Public Media Arts for Social Creativity (TU/e DESIS Lab, Eindhoven University of Technology)

14) Strategic Creativity Lab  (Design Academy Eindhoven)


15) Learning from the Local An architectural framing of renewable energy infrastructure (Aarhus School of Architecture Distributed and Open Production)

16) Life 2.0 (Aalborg University AAU DESIS Lab)


17a and 17b) EASD Sustain Valencia (EASD_Valencia DESIS Lab) and  Sustain ETSID Show and Award (ETSID_Valencia Desis Lab)

18) Inclusion by mobile. Seniors, youngsters and the city (DESIS Lab Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering)


19) Communicating the Wellbeing of a City with Santa Monica (Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design)

20) Latham St. Commons Reconnecting People Through Daily Life Needs (Carnegie Mellon DESIS Lab)

21)  Accelerate. Facilitating the emergence of a local, equitable, and sustainable economy (Savannah College of Art and Design SCAD DESIS Lab)

22) Public & Collaborative: Designing Services for Housing (The New School Parsons DESIS Lab)


23) cloTHING(s) as conversation. DESIS Lab at Emily Carr University


24) Super Healthy. An enabling service to empower patients (UNISINOS Desis Lab)

25) Auguri. Flores trazem alegria. Design & Sustainability Research Center (NDS) at Federal University of Paraná (UFPR)

26) Food Design. Improving Small Rural Productions (CEDTec – ED/ Universidade do Estado de Minas Gerais – UEMG)

27) Alto Vale do Itajaí. Design for local development (AMPE Alto Vale do Itajaí. NAS Design, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina – UFSC)

28) Active aging and hospitality: Designing a collaborative lodging service in older people’s homes in Rio de Janeiro (University of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro DESIS Lab)


29) Octopus. Community Design (DESIS Lab Duoc UC)


30) Olla sobre la llama. The way to safe, healthy and efficient stoves for Villa Clarín (DISCA Desis Lab.Universidad del Norte, Colombia)

31) Un espacio para todos (DISCA Desis Lab.Universidad del Norte, Colombia)

South Africa

32) Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations About Food): Innovation in the Soweto Food System (University of Johannesburg, FADA Design Society Development)


33) Burial Societies. Informal Life Policy  (University of Botswana DESIS Lab)

New Zealand

34)  Creative Common Occupation. Supporting creative practice (Auckland University of Technology (AUT) DESIS Lab)


35) Needle and Syringe Program Online: Bypassing stigma and protecting anonymity to preserve health.  (DESIS Lab Melbourne – RMIT University, this project: Swinburne University of Technology)


36) Ajishima Project: Community Regeneration after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 (Tokyo Zokei University TZU DESIS Lab)

37) Spedagi Project: Social design and distributed production that exploits local natural materials (Tokyo Zokei University TZU DESIS Lab)


38) Co-designing collaborative services to promote sustainable food production and consumption in Ulsan  (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology – UNIST DESIS Lab)

39) International Urban Media Exhibition & Workshop  (Seoul National University Intermedia Lab)

40) Just Remove a Piece. Homeless People in Seoul (Hongik University DESIS Lab)


41) Lettuce House Sustainable Lifestyle Lab (Tsinghua University, Tsinghua DESIS Lab)

42) Design IN, Design Out (Hunan University DESIS Lab)

43) Upcycling. Environment Future (Tongji University, Tongji DESIS Lab)

44)  Beanor. Bean sprout farming as a viable solution for IDPs  (Jiangnan University, Jiangnan DESIS Lab)

45) DesignAge HK Club. Possible Study of Ageing to explore ingenuity of daily living (HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research)


46) Crafting Confidence.A craft Developement for Katwalia,Netrang, Gujurat (National Institute of Design, NID Desis Lab)