Design and Social Innovation Research Network: Bridging the UK and Asia-Pacific Practices

Joyce Yee, Yoko Akama, Ryley Lawson, Cyril Tjahja

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As the Asia-Pacific region emerges as a global economic leader, even prosperous economies are facing challenges of balancing economic development with social and cultural sustainability. Social innovation - ideas, activities or services that work towards meeting social goals - is perceived to be able to address these issues. In this context, design is seen as a means of harnessing latent creativity and participation from stakeholders’ local, situated and embodied knowledge, increasing the effectiveness of social innovation impact (Meroni & Sangiorgi, 2011). Mirroring the interest in this practice, Design and Social Innovation has become a growing and developing area of academic study (Irwin, 2015). However, as expected the majority of academic literature and cases studies are predominately focussed on Europe and the US. When cities in Asia develop economically, design inevitably accompanies this growth. This is creating a trend of design being ‘imported’ through international consultancies like IDEO, Frog, Fjord and Deloitte that have opened up regional offices in response to this demand and rapid development. Observing this, we are concerned that this trend can inadvertently obscure or replace cultural, traditional and heterogeneous practices with imported beliefs that replicate narratives of industrialized progress or reproduce similar failings as current development efforts (Manzini, Baek & Baek, 2010). The DESIAP platform aims to bring Design and Social Innovation into international and comparative focus, leveraging the experience and knowledge of leading researchers in the UK and Asia-Pacific to enrich and broaden its understanding, and to amplify the importance of exchanging ideas through global flows in various directions. DESIAP platform was initiated by Yoko Akama, RMIT University (Australia) and Joyce Yee, Northumbria University (UK) in 2015, heralded by From Things to Services symposium and workshop in Singapore. This event attracted an international audience of over 150 academics, policy makers and practitioners across its two days, signalling a strong interest and opportunity for Design and Social Innovation in the region. Following this success, in 2016 we received a one-year Research Network fund from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK to bring together UK and Asia-Pacific researchers. With this funding, the DESIAP Research Network was created, and has since facilitated a symposium and a series of workshops in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and the UK. Outcomes of these events have been compiled in this report and made publicly accessible on the DESIAP website.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDESIAP Research Network
Number of pages60
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2017


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