DESIAP Research Network: Bridging the UK and Asia-Pacific Practices

About the Network

The DESIAP Research Network, funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Network Grant 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.


The term ‘Social Innovation’ has become widely used, actively promoted by governments, organisations, academia and businesses alike. According to the Design for Social Innovation Report published by the European Commission (2014, pg 2), they state; “Social innovation is the concept of developing new – often disruptive solutions that work towards meeting social goals.” Arguably, communities and organisations have always tackled problems and effected change for the social and public good. However, in the last ten years, we have witnessed a growing interest and use of design to enable social innovation due to the on-going financial crisis in the UK, Europe and the US. Design is seen as a way to harness latent creativity and participation from various stakeholders’ local, situated knowledge. With a rich history of socially focused initiatives and current political idea of the ‘Big Society’, UK has a leading number of practitioners and researchers currently operating in this field.

The strong economic development in Asia in the last 15 years has increased the West’s interest in the region. A recent report from the Australian Government Trade Commission report (AUSTRADE, 2015) suggests that the ASEAN 5’s (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam) GDP growth will far outstrip the Euro zone. Furthermore, Australia is entering its 24th year of uninterrupted economic growth, with GDP projection higher than the US, UK or Europe. However, even prosperous economies like Australia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong are facing challenges to balance sustainable economic development with social and political changes. There are now strong signs that the interest in using design to facilitate social change is growing in Asia-Pacific by the increasing number of social innovation labs being established in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea.

What are our aims?

What will we do?

There will be three key activities in Thailand and the UK that will bring together this dispersed community of practice.

Event 1 – DESIAP Research Network Public Symposium:This event will bring together examples from the Asia-Pacific region in Bangkok on the 12th of July 2016 at the Thai Creative Design Centre.

Event 2 – Asia Pacific Workshop: This 2-day workshop on 13th and 14th July 2016 follows on from the public symposium aimed at identifying issues, themes and opportunities for further research.

Event 3 – UK Workshop: The outcomes from the Bangkok symposium and workshop will be shared as points of discussion with participants in the UK and to shape the practitioner workshop (scheduled for early November 2017) that will be used to inform practices and identify research opportunities in the UK.

The interactions between the participants and presentations given will be made available to the wider community through the DESIAP website.The community platform will house various resources created from the proposed events, and links to various social innovators, social enterprises, funding bodies, NGOs, project initiatives, research networks, governmental bodies and companies in Design and Social Innovation. It will also become a repositoryfor academic research and publications relevant to the field, and house project notices that may arise in the future. The platform will enable us to not only enable the continued dissemination of the research outcomes but to facilitate continued dialogue between the communities.

Who are we?

Joyce Yee (Northumbria University, UK) and Yoko Akama (RMIT, Australia) are coordinating the DESIAP Research Network, supported by Kirsty Moegerlein, Cyril Tjahja (PhD research assistants) and Nico Leonard (web developer).

DESIAP Research Network Advisory Board includes researchers and academics from institutions from the UK and around Asia Pacific. They are:

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Funded by

Arts & Humanities Research Council

Coordinated by

Northumbria University Newcastle

Coordinated by

RMIT Design Research Institute