DESIS-USA: Demands and Initiatives on Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability in the U.S.

Session Title

DESIS-USA: Demands and Initiatives on Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability in the U.S.


Ezio Manzini, Politecnico di Milano
Lara Penin, Parsons The New School for Design
Federico Casalegno, MIT Mobility Lab

Session Type: Discussion

The emerging field of design for social innovation is being established within the design practice and academia and that led to the creation of DESIS: a network founded by Ezio Manzini connecting the design community worldwide to research, experiment and implement new a knowledge, practices and culture of design for social innovation and sustainability.

DESIS-USA is the American node of this international network of researchers to advance the practice and discourse of design-enabled social innovation toward more sustainable cities and lifestyles. From supporting with new solutions the already existing examples of social innovation in our society such as zero-mile food networks, co-housing initiatives, to the much needed areas of health care, urban mobility or energy, all these issues represent challenges to which design can and must contribute to.

This round table session will present the ideas behind DESIS-USA and discuss how interaction design can enhance initiatives in the development of more sustainable ways of living.


Federico Casalegno

Federico Casalegno, Ph.D., is the Director of the MIT Mobile Experience Lab and Associate Director of the MIT Design Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 2006, he is the director of the Green Home Alliance between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Italy.

A social scientist with an interest in the impact of networked digital technologies in human behavior and society, Casalegno both teaches and leads research at MIT, especially focusing on the area of rethinking and designing interactive media to foster connections between people, information and physical places using cutting-edge information technology.

Lara Penin

Lara Penin, PhD is a full-time Professor of Transdisciplinary Design at the School of Design Strategies at Parsons The New School for Design, where she teaches at the Design and Management and Integrated Design programs. Her work focuses on Design for Sustainability, Design for Sustainable Social Innovation and Service Design. At Parsons, she coordinates the Area of Study of Service Design and is co-founder and member of the Research Lab Design and Social Innovation for Sustainability (DESIS Lab).

Lara has a successful record of research, education and development projects on an international scale. In her previous position as a research consultant at Milan Polytechnic University, she has managed the project “Creative Communities for Sustainable Lifestyles”, funded by the United Nations’ Task Force on Sustainable Lifestyles, dedicated to research and modeling sustainable ways of living in Brazil, India and China through design methods and tools. She has successfully launched and managed the project LENS, the Learning Network on Sustainability, focused on education for Design for Sustainability and Product-Service Systems, financed by the European Commission, coordinated by Milan Polytechnic University in partnership with six universities in Europe and Asia.

She holds a PhD in Industrial Design and Multimedia Communication from Milan Polytechnic University, Italy and a BA in Architecture and Urban Planning from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She has lectured in Europe, China, India and Brazil and has published several papers and articles.