reflections on socially good design and social innovation

interviewed by Annie-Marie-Buxton, 3rd year BA Graphic Design Student, Central Saint Martins

1. How does design help to encourage social innovation?

design provides a framework in which to position social innovation.. when i started using the term social innovation in 2007, it was so new I didn't really know what it meant myself.. we used design to make the case for social innovation …

social innovation does not always needs design.. my new adventure humanKINDER is about social justice and social innovation - I draw on the discipline of design, amongst others, to achieve social good.

For me social innovation is about people, passion, justice, rights, communication, compassion, kindness and love. It is about connecting the dots, translating across cultural boundaries, embracing and celebrating different perspectives 

2.How could designers improve at becoming more socially innovative?

there are far too many people / systems / places that still encourage elitism and hierarchy. I include some designers in this, but also people from all other professions.. I prefer to work with people from a cross sector of disciplines  to understand multiple perspectives , this creates better conditions for social innovation to flourish.

For me social innovation is about people, I like to see how you can design an inclusive process where everyone can be involved whatever their ability, interest, background... a process of learning how to learn from each other… I think everybody, including designers, need to understand they are a part of the whole process, not THE whole process. To do good social innovation, I draw on my experiences in law, languages, teaching, charities, design, music, community action, research, art etc...

3.Do you feel like design education could be improved in order to produce more socially innovative/good projects?

Designers need to recognise that it is a discipline that can add huge value, potentially a massive contribution for social good … I think it is about understanding people's needs, aspirations and most importantly their context, walking in their shoes…. taking the time to explore, and contextualise an experimental process to find solutions WITH PEOPLE rather than making assumptions and jumping in too early. Design has taught me many lessons in a formative part of my career.. To do social good, and to do good social innovation, is not just about the tool, it is about the people. Working WITH people requires a whole different skill set. Design is a very useful discipline, but first and foremost for me, it is people and how you work with them, that matters.