DESIS Thematic Cluster: Public and Collaborative
Public sector and design when citizens become active and collaborative
by Ezio Manzini, Margherita Pillan and Eduardo Staszowski
Theme: How are emerging social networks meeting public services and innovation policies? And vice versa: how can public services and innovation policies trigger, empower, direct the emerging social networks? What can design do to make this promising meeting more effective and fruitful?(see also Background Notes below)
Cluster: Several DESIS Labs, worldwide, are already working on Public and Collaborative (P&C) related topics (applying them, for instance, in the fields of collaborative housing, social integration, neighbourhood improvement, healthcare and, more in general, public sector innovation policies). These on-going activities can be connected to create a DESIS Thematic Cluster: a group of DESIS Labs working on the same theme and exchanging experiences with the aim of building original design knowledge together. Its particular focus means that this Thematic Cluster will initially include only European and North American DESIS Labs.
Parsons, The New School for Design, New York (coordinator)
Politecnico di Milano, Faculty of design, Milan (coordinator)
Aalto University, Helsinki
Art Center, Pasadena
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
Central Saint Martin, London
La Cambre, Brussels
Mad Faculty, Campus Genk, Genk
Malmo University, Malmo
Fondazione Housing Sociale, Milano
27me Region, Paris
METID, Politecnico di Milano
January-June 2012: Connect design courses and local initiatives.
Adopting the DESIS approach, the first step is to optimise use of existing resources (by connecting, aligning and synergizing on-going and/or programmed didactic and research activities).
July-December 2012: Result implementation and valorisation (local and international scale).
The second step is to use the social capital generated in the first step (in terms of common language and shared visions and knowledge) to search for new research opportunities.
1. An interesting phenomenon is emerging worldwide: more and more people are choosing to behave actively and collaboratively. These new attitudes are driven by several social and economic factors and are based on a technological pre-condition: the diffusion of technologies that make a higher level of connectivity possible. In this new context, people are enabled to establish direct links between interested peers and this technical possibility opens new opportunities for meaningful activism and effective collaboration. In turn, this original link between new behaviors and new technologies is producing unprecedented forms of organization in the economic, political and everyday life arenas. In short, we are seeing a huge wave of social innovation.
2. Given this new social and technological environment, and given the growth of problems people are facing in their everyday lives, brand new solutions are being invented and existing ones enhanced. These are solutions where those who have traditionally beenindividual end-users tend to becomecollaborative co-producer; where people who have traditionally been considered only as parts of the problem become agents of the solution. In this general framework the services that these social innovations generate are co-designed and co-delivered, involving also the final users: user knowledge and creativity in their conception, and user time, energy and expertise in their delivery.
3. When they appear, these everyday life social innovations are rather fragile and highly localized entities. To turn them into long lasting, expanding phenomena, their value must be recognized in and supported. In other words, they need targeted public action: a new generation of public services capable of facilitating their functioning, to make them more effective and last, but not least, to promote their diffusion in other contexts. In conclusion, to trigger, orient, support and scale-up promising cases of bottom-up social innovations a new generation of public services is needed. However, the same is true vice versa: bottom-up social innovation can become a powerful and positive driver of public innovation.
4. The idea that, in the face of current economic and social challenges, the public sector in general and the public services in particular should be radically reshaped is widely diffused. Of course there is no one simple strategy to do so, but it appears clearer and clearer that a very promising strategy to move in this direction could be based on the opportunities opened by these new behaviors, by the creative use of existing technologies and by the brand new organizations they make possible. In short: the need to radically re-think public services can be spurred by this question: what could public services become, if, they were conceived as platforms to trigger, enable and support active and collaborative behavior on the part of citizens, instead of offering final services to passive, individual, end-users?
1. Driven by social, economic and environmental motivations, public services are already changing. But, given the problems we are facing, this transformation can (and must) be better directed and accelerated. Social innovation and, in particular, the active and collaborative attitude that is emerging, could be one of the most challenging and promising drivers of change. They offer the opportunity to radically re-think public services that are based on the notion that users can (also) be active and collaborative partners.
2. A bridge between bottom-up social innovation and top-down public services can be built through an appropriate use of design that adopts a participatory and community-centered design approach; one where participatory design focuses on and activates different actors, and helps to clarify their motivations and promote their alignment towards a shared goal; one where community-centered design supports the consolidation of emerging ideas, making them more effective, accessible and replicable.
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