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Learn how social design can reinvent approaches to social and public sector challenges

2 colleagues working together on a presentation at a high desk
2 colleagues working together on a presentation at a high desk
Work in progress presentation MA Graphic Communication Design Central Saint Martins UAL © John Sturrock
Written by
Cat Cooper
Published date
28 May 2021

Championing social design and design for sustainability, the Social Design Institute (SDI) at UAL develops insights into the use of design by organisations and designers.

Now the Institute has launched an online learning series, sharing how social design methods can be used to reinvigorate approaches to complex social, environmental and systemic challenges.

Informed by the team’s wide research, the upcoming 8-week introductory evening course is designed for those working in the public sector including civil servants, government officers, policy makers and funders; business, foundation, platform and charity leaders; as well as some professional designers looking to transition into social design. Also coming up are a trio of 2-hour webinars, covering social design theory, designing services through design sprints; and evaluating the change generated by design and creative interventions.

Many people outside of design are becoming familiar with approaches like design thinking or service design. What we hope to add with this course is some deeper reflection on what it means to design in, with and for social contexts – how to think about the social as something that might be designed, and the tools and mindsets to design with care.

— Jocelyn Bailey, UAL Social Design Institute researcher and course tutor

Short course: Introduction to Social Design

Introduction to Social Design 23 June 2021 for 8 weeks

Taught by 2 leading design academics, this course is designed to give participants hands-on experience in addressing a social, environmental or systemic challenge. Over 8 weeks (evening study) they will develop an approach and action plan for applying social design in their own organisational, professional or personal context. There will also be the opportunity to understand and debate some of the current ideas, arguments and insights around social design. This course is led by 2 tutors:

  • Jocelyn Bailey - Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Social Design Institute. Her experience encompasses both practice and research on the borders between design and government (from policy development to service delivery). She ran the All Party Parliamentary Group for Design, and the Design Commission (2008-2013), followed by a role with cultural and creative consultancy the Burns Owens Partnership, social design agency Uscreates, and her own strategic design consultancy practice, supporting a variety of clients across the public and third sector to embed design into their own organisations and practices. She currently teaches MBA students at Central Saint Martins and Birkbeck.
  • Megha Wadhawan - a service designer whose work brings real people into the heart of services. She has facilitated workshops and trainings on service design and design research for organisations such as Ustwo. She co-authored the DIYToolkit for Nesta with STBY, taught at Ravensbourne University, University of Bath & University of York as well as mentored for the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme. Her clients include Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Square, Nesta, Nike Foundation, Rockefeller foundation, Forum for the future & Lloyds Banking Group.

Course tutor Jocelyn Bailey shares 5 reasons why social design is important.


New Thinking on Social Design 29 June 2021

This webinar will give professionals insights and perspectives on what social design is, why and how it has emerged and how organisations can build capacity to carry it out. It draws upon research and practice in the Social Design Institute including a set of 12 social design principles. This webinar is suitable for civil servants, local government officers or people working in business/other organisations who are interested in deploying design, but who would like to take a more critical and socially conscious perspective. Led by Professor Lucy Kimbell and Dr Jocelyn Bailey of the Social Design Institute.

Exploring Service Futures through Design Sprints27 July 2021

This webinar will provide insights and perspectives on how to conduct ‘futures’ thinking within your business or organisation using design-led approaches. It draws upon insights and methods developed through a cross-disciplinary research project about AI readiness in professional services funded by the UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund in which the Social Design Institute was a partner. Led by Lucy Kimbell, Professor of Contemporary Design Practices and Director of the Social Design Institute.

New Thinking on Assessing Impact and Value through Creative Practice13 July 2021

A webinar designed to give professionals new insights and perspectives on the challenges of evaluating the change generated by design and creative interventions, as well as outlining key principles for carrying out a context-sensitive evaluation. This course draws upon Dr Kaszynska’s work on cultural value (AHRC Cultural Value Project) and builds on the Institute’s activity evaluating change in places and communities resulting from design and arts initiatives. Led by Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Senior Research Fellow at the Social Design Institute.

Case studies

Social Design project case study 1: Rethinking policy and future government

Professor Lucy Kimbell and staff and students from MA Service Design at London College of Communication (LCC) supported the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre team developing the EU Policy Lab, exploring the use of design thinking in policy development. The project looked into the role of citizens and business in future government models: Future of government 2030+: A Citizen Centric Perspective on new government models .

Recently the Institute worked with policy maker and artist Stephen Bennett to carry out practical research exploring the potential for design and the arts to bring new ideas to policy development. Funded by the Clore Leadership Foundation and AHRC, his work involves developing a conceptual framing for how art may be used in culture – and then disseminating these findings in a visual and engaging way through 2021. A series of articles document the work so far.

Stephen Bennett:

“The growth of digital information and data, globalisation, and the growing complexity of society are causing profound tremors in public policy. This includes citizens feeling dislocated from decision-making, a shift towards ‘post-truth’ politics and a broad questioning of the value of expertise. Anecdotal evidence suggests that art and culture can play a role in policymaking in a post-truth, post-globalised and post-pandemic world.”

Social Design project case study 2: Tackling childhood obesity

Since June 2019, the Social Design Institute has been collaborating with Bite Back 2030, whose mission is to redesign the food system, putting young peoples’ health first – with a goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030. Working in collaboration with the Social Design Institute, Bite Back has been able to embed a social design approach within the organisation to help them to meet this target.

One part of the initiative involved the development of student briefs working with students of Graphic Communication Design at Central Saint Martins, (CSM) and Service Design students at London College of Communication (LCC) to explore the design of materials and methods that could engage children and young people in critical reflective thinking about food and drink – and to imagine what the experience of buying food might be like in the future. MBA students from CSM and Birkbeck also worked on strategies for creating a social movement calling for change to the food system, and food inequalities.

Social Design project case study 3: Helping mid-size accounting and legal firms understand the potential of AI

Using design methodology to understand the challenges and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the research project ‘Next Generation Services through Collaborative Design’ funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Fund explored the potential impact of AI for professional services firms (2018-2021).

Led by Institute Director Professor Lucy Kimbell and former colleague Dr Makayla Lewis, the team have produced a free AI Readiness Toolkit that people in the legal, accounting and professional service sector can use to explore what AI might mean for their future services and business models.

About the Social Design Institute

The UAL Social Design Institute generates, advances and promotes research and insights across 3 focus areas. One strand examines how social design can successfully inform policy making and public policy development both locally and nationally. The second examines the interplay between design and different kinds of systems and social structures, such as the food system and the systems around youth-based knife crime.The third theme addresses how value Is perceived, assessed, and communicated by designers and users.

The Institute is presently advising on a comprehensive assessment of the state of design in the UK – for the first time acknowledging the social and environmental value of design, as well as its better-understood economic contribution. This analysis with BOP Consulting on behalf of the Design Council will underpin the Design Council’s Design Economy 2021 - providing evidence of the vast contribution of design and social design in business, the public sector, the environment, and society.

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