= DESIS is a network of design labs based in design schools (or in design-oriented universities) that promotes social innovation towards sustainability.
"Over the past decade a variety of social actors throughout the world (institutions, enterprises, non-profit organizations, and, most of all, networks of collaborative people) have moved outside mainstream models of thinking and doing, generating a variety of promising initiatives such as community-supported agriculture, co-housing, carpooling, community gardens, neighborhood care, and time banks. These initiatives represent working prototypes of sustainable ways of living and, at the same time, they propose viable solutions to complex problems of the present (e.g., social cohesion, urban regeneration, healthy food accessibility, water and sustainable energy management). Together they form a promising wave of social innovation recognizable in all the regions of the world, from mature industrial countries to emerging and developing contexts.
Today these social innovations constitute a constellation of small initiatives promoted primarily by active local communities. Nevertheless, it seems that if favourable conditions are created, these small, local social inventions and their working prototypes can be scaled-up, consolidated, replicated, and integrated with larger programs to generate large-scale sustainable changes. One of these favourable conditions is the wide distribution of design capabilities in society. In fact, all the partners involved must be able to consider problems and opportunities, imagine something that does not yet exist, and collaborate on finding the way to bring it into being.
DESIS Labs comprise teams of professors, researchers, and students who orient their didactic and research activities towards starting and/or facilitating social innovation processes. Each lab develops projects and research on the basis of its own resources and possibilities and, at the same time, acts as the node of a wider network of similar labs, the DESIS Network, which enables them to exchange experiences and collaboratively develop larger design and research programs. Thus, the DESIS Network operates as a highly innovative design agency: both an open agency, where complex, socially relevant topics can be tackled, scenarios built, and solutions found and offered as contributions to the social conversation, and a distributed agency, where many design teams working in parallel are connected to each other and can function on the scale of a larger entity, while they are also sensitive to particular local cultural, social, and economic conditions.
In conclusion, the DESIS Network itself may be seen as an example of social innovation: an original, highly distributed organization where the existing (but under-valued) social resource of students’ enthusiasm and teachers’ experience is catalyzed and where scenarios and solutions, conceptual frameworks, and practical tools are generated and offered as open contributions in the transition towards sustainability."