Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability

Session Title

Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability


Ezio Manzini, Politecnico di Milano, DIS-Indaco/DESIS Network

Session Type: Keynote

  1. In the last decades we have been witnessing a growing wave of social innovation. A multiplicity of institutions, enterprises, non-profit organisations, but also and most of all, individual citizens and their associations have been capable to move outside the mainstream models of living and producing and to invent new and sustainable ones.
  2. Social innovation is driven by diffuse creativity and entrepreneurship. That is, by resources that, in a densely populated and highly connected world, are very abundant (if only they are recognized and valorised). In the next future, social innovation has high potentialities to become a major driver of change. But something has to be done to help the process.
  3. Social innovation cannot be planned, but it can be made more probable creating favourable environments and empowering creative people. Creative people can be empowered by specifically conceived sets of products, services and communication artefacts, i.e by conceiving and developing enabling solutions, and in particular, enabling digital platforms.

The presentation articulates the previous statements and introduces the discussion on what interaction design can do to catalyse diffuse creativity for sustainable changes.


Professor of Design at the Politecnico di Milano, Honorary Doctor at The New School of New York (2006) and at the Goldsmiths College of London (2008) and honorary professor at the Glasgow School of Art (2009).

Presently, his main interests are towards design for social innovation and, in particular, towards the promotion of DESIS, an international network on Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability ( ). Recent publications: Collaborative services. Social innovation and design for sustainability (Polidesign. Milano, 2008) and Service Design in the Age of Networks and Sustainability (in: Miettinen, S., Koivisto, M., ed., Designing Services, University of Arts and Design, Helsinki, 2009).