Speculative research about social designing

As part of this study into research and practice in the field of social design, we decided to experiment with using an approach associated with design practice. We have commissioned a small number of people/organizations to respond to a brief, in (audio)visual and/or textual form suitable for publication on this blog.

In our original scoping document from last November, we defined social design as “a diffused set of practices across many fields of application including local and central government, policy areas such as healthcare and international development, as well as something promoted by some funders, activists and non-profit and commercial providers. Not all of it is done by people who think of themselves as designers or who think of their work as designing.” We hope to receive and publish speculations and provocations to help us as researchers, and the project’s wider audiences, think differently about what social design is or could be.

Like social design, speculative design research is a term that has emerged over the past decade. Its antecedents include everything from Surrealism and Dada, to design games in the tradition of Scandinavian Participatory Design, to artefacts created by designers for gallery contexts, as well as inventive methods used in social and cultural research.

The researchers/practitioners we approached are people working in design in the expanded field or in closely-related fields such as art. (Not all of them were available to help us in the time available and/or for the modest fee we could offer.) We hope that their provocations, and any resulting comments and twitter activity, will provide us with a source of data that helps us go beyond the frames of reference and findings that have emerged in the project so far. For this reason we invited people who are not necessarily closely linked to or active in social design, but whose work, we think, proceeds in relation to it.

The brief we gave them was this:

“I can’t get out of the house to get what I need.”

What can we/you do?

Respond with a provocation or speculation that could take the form of a new mode of practice, a scenario, a policy, a service, a social enterprise, business process, model or something else.

Over the next few weeks, we will publish participants’ contributions on this blog and look forward to seeing if and how the responses that unfold can help us think differently about what social design is concerned with.



About Lucy Kimbell

Director, Innovation Insights Hub, University of the Arts London. AHRC research fellow, Policy Lab, Cabinet Office. Associate fellow, Said Business School, University of Oxford. Author of Service Innovation Handbook. @lixindex
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