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How can design labs contribute to societal development?

During the past decade, design has been recognised as a powerful innovation driver and has proven to be useful when approaching complex societal challenges. This Forum for Social Innovation panel brought together researchers with extensive experience in participatory design and social innovation to discuss how design labs can contribute to societal development.

People from all sectors were invited to two sessions that addressed the notion of design labs and how they potentially could contribute to societal development. During the first session, the discussion was on a general level that. In the afternoon it was slightly more academic but everyone was still welcome to join.

Here’s the Bambuser broadcast from the panel.


Date and time: June 14, at 10-12 & 13-16

Location: Medea, Malmö University, Östra Varvsgatan 11 (map)

This full day event is free of charge, but please notify your attendance by registering no later than June 5 June 10 at The morning session will also be broadcast live through Bambuser and can be viewed on

Organizers: Forum for Social Innovation Sweden, Malmö University, and The TEMPOS project at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Design, Denmark.


Panel discussion on design labs and societal development
During the past decade, design has been recognised as a powerful innovation driver. The design approach – based on a user-centred perspective, involvement of stakeholders through participatory design, and rapid prototyping – has proven to be useful when approaching complex societal challenges. This panel brings together researchers (see Panelists below) with extensive experience in participatory design and social innovation to discuss how design labs can contribute to societal development and where the limitations might be located. Issues that will be discussed include how future social innovations can be staged and prototyped. What can be accomplished beyond the laboratory? How can design labs provide a long-term perspective and balance transformative events with a sustained presence in affected user communities?


Seminar: Why (call it) Design laboratories?
Design engagements with everyday change and social innovation come in many formats and with different degrees of involvement of affected stakeholders. In this afternoon session, we will ask what the concept of the design laboratory may add to social innovation efforts and how particular a framing of design and change the design laboratory offers. Invited commentators will open the seminar by addressing the following questions:

How well in line with present day attempts to renew the public sector is the design laboratory, and how is it distinguishable from other attempts to involve citizens and municipal officers in social innovation (Birgit Jæger, Roskilde University)?

What makes design laboratories different from other temporary spaces of innovation such as living labs and participatory innovation projects, and what should we expect design laboratories to accomplish (Christian Clausen, Ålborg University)?

Where is the transformative power of participatory engagements situated and how well do transformation and the commitment of stakeholders scale in design laboratories (Peter Munthe-Kaas, Ålborg University)

Thomas Binder and Eva Brandt are Associate Professors at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Design, DK. They are part of the co-design research cluster engaging open design collaborations and participatory design in the context of design anthropology, interaction design and social innovation.

Per-Anders Hillgren is Assistant Professor at Malmö University where he splits his time between Forum for Social Innovation Sweden, School of Arts and Communication and Living Lab the Neighbourhood at Medea, Malmö University. He specializes in collaborative design processes with a focus on new services, new media, and social innovation.

Yanki Lee is Adjunct Professor at the DESIS Lab for Social Design Research, Hong Kong Design Institute. She worked at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design (HHCD) since 2000 focusing on design methodology for participation and social innovation. She co-founded EXHIBIT, a Community Interest Company, that continues her interests in housing design and promotes social innovation and helping others develop their own social design practice.

Ann Light is professor of Design at Northumbria University’s School of Design and a visiting researcher at the University of Sussex and Queen Mary, University of London. Her interests include participatory processes, community development and how to democratize technology. She is currently researching the potential for Digital Interdependence, global participation in the design and deployment of digital technologies to help build social structures and sustainable lifestyles.

Jörn Messeter is Associate Professor in interaction design at School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University, Sweden, and Adjunct Professor in Industrial Design at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa. His current focus is mobile and ubiquitous computing, more specifically place-centric perspectives on digital media, and participatory approaches to interaction design.

Francesca Rizzo is researcher at Politecnico di Milano, Department of DESIGN. Her fields of interest are Participatory Design and User Centred Design (UCD) and Service Design. She is member of the Design for Sustainability research unit.

Bjarne Stenqvist is project Manager at the Environmental Department, City of Malmö. He is deeply engaged in societal change and social innovation and have among other things been working as senior adviser for social sustainability/social innovation at the City office, City of Malmö and a research associate at the British think-tank Demos.

Birgit Jæger is Professor of Technology and Societal Development at Department of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University, Denmark. Her research has mainly focused on the development of e-government as well as citizens and users role in innovation and Technology assessment. Currently, she is the director of a study of citizens’ participation in global hearings of complicated scientific and technological issues just as she is working on a research project called Collaborative Innovation in the Public Sector (CLIPS).

Christian Clausen is professor in Sustainability, Design and Transitions at Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Copenhagen. His research interests include staging of innovative processes across knowledge domains and sociotechnical dimensions of the work with product ideas in organization.

Peter Munthe-Kaas is a PhD fellow at the center for Design Innovation and Sustainable Transitions at Aalborg University, Copenhagen. His research focus is within the field of innovative urban planning, where he has worked closely together with the technical administration in Copenhagen to stage interventions in urban space through the project Skab din by.

Related publications
Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges
Prototyping and infrastructuring in design for social innovation

Featured image: credit Flickr user ChimpLearnGood CC:BY-NC-ND

1 thought on “How can design labs contribute to societal development?”

  1. Designlabland ( is a EU-project that have explored exactly how design labs can contribute to societal development by creating win-win case between organizations/companies and young creators in Norrbotten. I´m the project architect/manager and I`m also writing a PHD in Art & visual studies GU about swedish fashion magazines and their female editors visual/design strategies (1930-68). Feel free to contact me if you wan´t to know more about Designlabland.

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