Democratizing production: challenges in co-designing enabling platforms for social innovation

Open Access:

Seravalli, Anna. (2011). “Democratizing production: challenges in co-designing enabling platforms for social innovation”, The Tao of Sustainability, International Conference on Sustainable Design Strategies in a Globalization Context, Bejing China 27-29 October 2011.

ABSTRACT – In the social innovation field it has been recognized the need for infrastructures to support the flourishing of social innovation: intermediaries that should facilitate the connections between diverse stakeholders and resources. Design research has contributed to the idea of intermediaries by developing the concept of enabling platforms. These are situated systems of human and non-human actors, which should support bottom-up initiatives and cross-sector networks by responding to the meta-technological demands of social innovation activities. In order to fulfil this scope they should be deeply rooted in the specific context where they are operating, valuing local stakeholders and resources. Furthermore they should be characterized by a certain degree of indeterminacy, which leaves to the involved stakeholders the possibility to initiate their own activities by performing design actions after the design of the platform is concluded, the so called design-after-design.

This article would like to discuss the nature of enabling platforms and how they could be designed referring to a concrete case: the establishment of the fabrication space Fabriken in Malmö, Sweden. First some reflections will be made about why fabrication spaces can be considered enabling platforms and which specific challenges they pose in supporting social innovation. Further on, the strategy of design-in-use will be presented highlighting the role that prototyping, individual involvement and long-term perspective can play in designing enabling platforms.

Keywords: enabling platforms, design for social innovation, personal fabrication, design-before-use, design-in-use, prototyping