DESIAP Research Network Symposium & Workshop 2016

12‐14th July 2016

Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) – 5th Fl. The Emporium Shopping Complex 622 Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok Thailand 10110


Public Symposium ‐ 12th July, 2016

Our 2016 DESIAP Public Symposium was held at the Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) in Bangkok on the 12th of July 2016. It was our second public symposium bringing together an exciting range of practitioners and researchers of design and social innovation from over ten countries around Asia‐Pacific.

This symposium and its accompanying 2‐day workshop builds on the outcomes from our first event, From Things to Services Symposium and Workshop, which took place at the National Design Centre, Singapore, on 5‐6th February 2015. The event heralded the Design and Social Innovation in Asia‐Pacific (DESIAP) platform initiated by RMIT and Northumbria University as a place for practitioners in this region working in the field of Social Innovation to coalesce. DESIAP 2015 attracted an international audience of over 150 academics, policy makers and practitioners across its two days. This signalled a strong interest and opportunity for Design for Social Innovation in the region.

DESIAP 2016 symposium and workshop was funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Network. It aims to create and establish an international research network on an emerging and relatively undocumented field of Design for Social Innovation by creating a platform for knowledge sharing between researchers and practitioners in the UK and Asia‐Pacific region. Led by Joyce Yee (Northumbria University) and Yoko Akama (RMIT University), we are bringing together key change makers in the field and leading researchers and academics from the UK and Asia‐Pacific to build on insights gathered already to explore cultural nuances, conditions and relational dimensions when people are embarking on change.

The videos of the all the presentations and discussions are now available online. Our first academic paper that’s come out of what we learnt so far has also been published at the 2016 Cumulus Hong Kong conference.

The following themes and sub-questions emerged from the symposium:

    1. Theme 1: Cultural NuancesWhen design/designers step into conditions and circumstances for social change, they can disrupt existing practices, reconfigure local power-dynamics and shift gender relations in intentional or unknowing ways, but either way, design/designers are implicated in becoming a constituent of transforming cultural practices.
      • In foregrounding cultural nuances when designing with others, what issues, questions and concerns are significant to keep in view?
      • What can help those who intervene, including stakeholders with certain agendas and existing practices, as well as the ‘local community’, be aware of and work with existing and morphing cultural logics?
      • If intercultural translation is an ideology and not possible pragmatically, how do we work with and within misalignment, miscommunication and misunderstandings, and not see these as failures or negative qualities?
    1. Theme 2: 관계/RelationshipDiscourses in social innovation have highlighted the significance of interpersonal relationships and the resources and exchanges that come from those relationships that create value. Despite their importance, relationships and their outcomes (e.g. care, engagement, and reciprocity) in social innovation have not been emphasised in design research as much as tools and technique.
      • How do relationship feature and foster in your practice?
      • What could help us understand its complexity? Language, frameworks?
      • What are the approaches relevant to designing for and evaluating relationships in social innovation?
    1. Theme 3: Precariousness (risk/uncertainty)This theme grapples with the risky, turbulent and precarious contexts that often accompany most change-making initiatives, especially when undertaken with communities that have its own histories, politics, dynamics, structures, relations and boundaries. The attitudinal difference between some design scholars and practitioners who accept and work with uncertainty as a condition of change contrasts with those who labels this as ‘risk’. The very term ‘risk’ is historically situated in the emergence of modernity, beginning with the Enlightenment of human progress and social order that can be explained objectively, scientifically and rationally, and ‘assumes that the social and natural works follows laws that may be measured, calculated and therefore predicted’ (Lupton 1989: 6-7).
      • How does precariousness feature in your project?
      • If it were always a condition of doing social innovation, how would you embrace it?
      • Risk can be associated with creativity. How would you nurture risk-taking rather than treat it as a negative element that needs to be managed?
    1. Theme 4: 時間/temporalityDesign celebrates a future orientation, following the European modern thought of pursuing a story of progress in a linear fashion. The desire to change situations to preferred ones (Simon 1968) means that design’s orientation is always future-focused where the new is always better, without acknowledging existing or historical culture, traditions and relationships.Time is a human invented concept that comes from modernist movement. When looking for non-linear conceptions and relations with time, we can begin to start thinking of plurality of time. This notion evokes a way for us to co-exist and co-experience an entanglement with geological, ecological, bio-diverse and multi-generational rhythms. The slow movement is an example that acknowledges these notions.
      • Is the industrialised model of doing things quickly and efficiently the best way to approach D&SI projects?
      • When is the ‘start’ or ‘end’ of a ‘project’?
      • How do we take into consideration the change already happening in these multiple sites of action and how do you become sensitive to it?
    1. Theme 5:導/ethicsWhen designing necessarily intervenes in someone’s life, then an ethical consideration becomes paramount. It becomes a constant undercurrent of our work. As we work with increasingly unbounded and diverse contexts such as communities, cities and large-scale issues we have to consider existing systems, processes and stakeholders. This makes it a complex terrain to navigate.
      • Given D&SI are often buffeted by external and unforeseeable changes, how do we remain responsive and not reactive and yet still strive for something meaningful?
      • What is our professional and moral standpoint? And how do we consider other people’s viewpoints particularly if they differ from ours? How are disagreements managed?
      • How are these concerns and many others kept alive and in view in the moments of our engagements, especially in professional practice where there might be less opportunities to critically reflect and challenge these issues?
    1. Theme 6:임팩트/ImpactThis theme discusses the challenges of evaluating the impact of social innovation and in particular design’s contribution to this new and emerging field. It is difficult to evaluate impact in this area because design is often messy, affective, tacit, implicit and contextually specific and sit in opposition to economic, science and technology knowledge of quantitative, explicit and codified measurement. And yet, we are expected to predict and commit to outcomes and impact at the start.
      • What does impact mean to you and your stakeholders? How do you even begin to make sense of it?
      • How do you reconcile different expectations of the stakeholders especially in terms of desired/unintended impact?
      • When impact might not be immediate, how would you anticipate, track or evaluate it in SI project?
      • What about unintentional/unforeseen impact? How do you avoid the possibility of unfavourable impact?



Workshop ‐ 13‐14th July, 2016

The DESIAP 2016 Workshop was held at the Thai Creative and Design Center (TCDC) in Bangkok on the 13-14th of July 2016 following on from the public symposium held the day before. In total we had 30 participants, half comprised the DESIAP network members from the UK and Asia-Pacific, while half of the participants came from a range of Thai public, private and educational organisations. The aim of the follow-up workshop was to discuss the themes and insights that has emerged from the public symposium held on the 12th of July. Broad ranging and rich discussions took place over an intense 2 days and we have summarised the outcomes in the following report.  Some of the key issues discussed included:




Funded by


Coordinated by

Northumbria University

Coordinated by

RMIT University

Sponsored by

Thai Creative Design Centre (TCDC)