Design for Socially Shaped Innovation

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  • Article: Seravalli, A. (2012). Building Fabriken, Design for Socially Shaped Innovation. Presented at Design Research Society International Conference Bangkok, 1-4, July 2012.



"Recently, there has been a growing attention to innovation processes based on the involvement of diverse actors in co-creation activities. A new innovation model is evolving, relying on collaboration, openness and participation as drivers for the development of novelty in diverse fields. This model has a central role in social innovation, which is claimed to arise from collaborations across various sectors and social structures. In trying to understand how innovation arises in co-creation processes, this paper relies on the idea of socially shaped innovation, according to which novelty emerges from local interactions through tensions and argumentation.

In exploring how design could support socially shaped innovation, the paper discusses the experience of designing Fabriken, a socially shaped infrastructure for socially shaped innovation. Particularly, the focus is on the design process and on the shift from a design-in the-studio strategy, based on a funnel model, to a design-in-use strategy, where some participatory tactics such as prototyping, small-scale interventions and long-term engagement are used by diverse stakeholders to explore the design space.


Article excerpt: Fabriken, a socially shaped infrastructure for socially shaped innovation?

Eight months after the opening, some considerations can be made about social shaping at Fabriken.

Collaborative networks are emerging, involving not only Fabriken, but also the whole premises. While people are sewing, soldering and laser-cutting in the basement, STPLN is hosting events and managing a co-working facility at the ground level, using the same collaborative, open and democratic approach that drives Fabriken. Users are moving from one space to the other, developing alliances and taking advantage of all the possibilities.

One of these users is Carin, a former teacher, who contacted Fabriken to get support for starting her project. Her idea is to create a space where children can develop their creativity and environmental awareness by playing with cast-off materials from manufacturing processes. Fabriken is supporting Carin’s project in different ways: On the one side, it provides her access to a workshop where she can experiment with materials and do activities with children. On the other side, it allows her, by being in the space, to become part of Fabriken’s network and to get to know possible partners.

In terms of the broader innovation discourse, Fabriken also works as a space for technological experimentations. Forskningavdelningen’s members have been involved in the creation of several different prototypes of robots, software applications and hardware boards; some of these experiments have been commercialized. A number of users use the facilities as a support for their start-ups: Quinn has started a catering company using the premises’ kitchen. Rebecka, a fashion designer, has also recently founded her own company and is using Tantverket as her atelier.

Beside users coming to the space for setting up a small company or exploring the possibilities of technologies and machines, there are also participants who have been unemployed or on sick leave for a long time. In this sense, Fabriken counts in the social innovation discourse, but in a way that we never expected.

From these outcomes, it seems that the Fabriken experience can bring a contribution to the general discourse of collaborative, open and democratic innovation. In fact, the phenomena appearing in the space seem to indicate that novelty emerging from social shaping is manifold since it simultaneously involves diverse dimensions, from technological to social ones, from economical to organizational ones." (