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From engaging to empowering people, a set of co-design experiments with a service design perspective

Author: Daria Cantù and Daniela Selloni
Published Date: 16 December 2013

This Social Frontier report was originally published by Nesta.

Local communities in cities, confronted with a lack of services inside a city, are seeking to solve problems from the bottom up. In unprecedented ways, this is generating original cases of social innovation.

This Social Frontier report draws a parallel between a set of fast co-design activities within an action research called ‘Ideas Sharing stall’, and a series of systematic co-design sessions in the framework of the ‘Creative Citizens’ project. The two experimentations result from a renewed activism on the part of city dwellers, which can be currently observed in the city of Milan.

Both the research projects move in the field of service design for social innovation adopting a participatory approach known as community centred design.

The paper describes the work done in the two contexts discussing their purposes and tools andoutlining two formats of intervention for co-designing services with citizen participation. The first model relates to people’s engagement, while the second is more linked to their empowerment. Thus the discussion focuses on the relation between them, highlighting the role and form of servicedesigner action in the shift from engaging to empowering people in enhancing social innovation. 

In conclusion the importance of service designers collaborating with other local actors in the project development is underlined, suggesting they be seen not so much as facilitators but as vision bearers, triggering, inspiring and leading the community centred design process.

Read in full: "From engaging to empowering people, a set of co-design experiments with a service design perspective"