Desislab ELISAVA is the design research hub for social and digital innovation in Barcelona led by Arianna Mazzeo and Ezio Manzini.

In the complexity of contemporary society, social innovation is spreading and its potential, as a driver of sustainable change, is increasing. To facilitate this process, the design community, in general, and the design schools, in particular, can play a fundamental role.


Social innovation is a new idea that works to achieve social objectives In other words, social innovation can be seen as a process of change that arises from the creative combination of existing assets (social capital, historical heritage, traditional craftsmanship, advanced technology accessible) and that aims to achieve socially recognized goals in new ways. A kind of innovation driven by social demands rather than by the market and / or autonomous techno-scientific research, and generated more by the actors involved than by the specialists.


In the last decade, social innovation has spread: a variety of social actors around the world (institutions, companies, non-profit organizations and, above all, networks of collaborators) have moved away from conventional models of thinking and doing, generating a variety of promising initiatives such as community-supported agriculture, co-housing, car sharing, community gardens, neighborhood care, talent exchange and time banks. These initiatives propose viable solutions to complex problems of the present (for example, social cohesion, urban regeneration, access to healthy foods, water and sustainable management of energy) and, at the same time, represent prototypes of sustainable ways of life.


Design for social innovation can find in design schools an important driver for its application and dissemination. In fact, design schools (and, more generally, all design-oriented universities) can guide their didactic and research activities towards social innovation. That is, they can become design laboratories where new visions are generated, new tools are defined and tested and new projects are initiated and supported. If a global movement towards sustainability demands the best possible use of all existing resources, design schools, with all their potential in terms of student enthusiasm and teaching experience, should be considered a very promising social resource: a potential promoter. powerful of sustainable change.