The emerging diversity of social design practices in Europe and elsewhere – from ‘social design’ and creative labs to artistic ‘interventions’ and ‘community art’ – is testimony to the expanding horizon and depth of contemporary design disciplines.
Politicians, neighbourhood councils, social organizations, and business managers increasingly express their need for and interest in new approaches and methods for analysing and addressing the problems they face. In this context there is a growing need for individuals and organizations with the ability to address a wide range of societal issues in a creative way; who, with a deep understanding of the forces at play, have the capacity to pose new questions from original and thought-provoking perspectives; initiating new and meaningful processes, working both with and independently of the existing established ‘structures’ and rational ways of thinking; developing new ways of working, using imagination as a tool for progressive dialog. They are change-makers and function as creative catalysts.
Why certain social design practices are more successful than others and why other initiatives fail is often not well understood. We see this lack of understanding of the intrinsic capacities of design among stakeholders as a major ‘obstacle’ for a wider acceptance and application of design practices for a ‘vital’ society. For this process we use the term society design, which we understand as a diverse metaphor for the emerging possibilities in the landscape of design and society.
The goals of the Society Design project are: (1) to distil key learnings from relevant and leading projects (in the Netherlands, Europe and, where necessary – i.e. the potential for additional learnings – elsewhere) and (2) to translate these learnings into practical insights for designers, design education, policy makers and other public and private stakeholders. We will pay specific attention to the sustainable character of the projects (within the specific cultural context of each initiative).
The results of the first exploratory phase will be summarized in a publication. The focus of the second phase will be on initiating pilot projects and on promoting, discussing and embedding the results of the first phase both in existing and in new projects in the area of society design. Central to this will be the realization of a recognized ‘platform’ for society design. This platform will be the basis from which new projects – in collaboration with local partners – can be initiated and will function as a sounding board for ‘society designers’ in the field.
In 2006-2007 The Beach, in the framework of the Creative Challenge Call, researched and mapped the potential of creative processes for innovation . Since then, the debate over the application and desirability of creative modernization processes has intensified, and is now embraced and supported by a broader range of participants. However, the various institutions that play a fundamental role in the functioning of our society (both public and private) often lack the skills needed for innovation - both in terms of developing their in-house creative resources and in engaging in successful alliances with others. At the same time the creative sector is not capturing all the opportunities for further growing the value of their contribution to the creation of a ‘vital society’. To address these issues The Beach, together with Evert Ypma (independent design strategist and researcher at the Zurich University of the Arts), is initiating the project Society Design.