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DESIS Workshop 3 – Public Service Collaboration: Opportunities and Challenges

Organised in partnership with Camden Council the 3rd and final Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) workshop of the year aims to supercharge collaboration between Higher Education and public service providers. Running back-to-back with the Nesta Social Frontiers conference, the workshop will be an opportunity for design led social innovation researchers and practitioners to share and exchange their approaches and resources with public service organisations facing the challenge of innovating service provision. We hope to identify and support the formation of challenge themes that may provide the focus for practice and research collaboration.

With your help we will;

share examples of collaborative approaches to public service innovation
explore the challenges and benefits of HE – public service provider collaboration
foster new/support existing social innovation champions among public service providers
identify current challenges and projects for future collaborative action research

Alongside delegates from Higher Education institutions and public service bodies the event will be open to design students and researchers. This means that, in addition to developing connections and exploring potential partnerships, the workshop is an opportunity to engage with undergraduates, and early career researchers looking to apply their skills to society’s most pressing challenges.

Reasons to attend

For Public Service Organisations

Public services are undergoing considerable change as budgets are cut and demand for services grows. There is wide recognition that this challenge cannot be met by increased efficiency alone, but instead requires a radical rethink of provision and an innovative approach to service delivery. Design has many of the skills and competencies needed for the development of innovative technologies and services, and design researchers and students alike, want to collaborate to help address these challenges. This workshop offers an opportunity to strengthen existing connections with universities and explore new ways your organisation could access new assets to co-deliver social and service innovations.

For Higher Education

The workshop is an opportunity to share your research interests and resources with a wider audience and find partners to collaborate with on research or educational projects. With students and their potential employers in attendance the workshop is an occasion to reflect on the skills required to address complex societal challenges, and how these can be embedded within design courses.

For students

The workshop is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of challenges facing society and the work of those trying to address these problems. It will also be an opportunity to hear about international and local initiatives currently taking place in this space, and to put forward your views on how you would like to be involved in future collaborations.


The day will kick-off with presentations outlining the principles and approach of Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability, and offering examples of collaborations between public service providers and design focused HE institutions. We will hear from;

Ezio Manzini, (Founder, DESIS Network) who will explain the synergies available to design schools, social innovators and service providers that view staff and students as societal resources, and collaborative action research as a de-risked environment for learning and experimentation.

Eduardo Staszowski, (Director, Parsons New York DESIS Lab) will share learning and insights from Public and Collaborative NYC, a program of activities that explored how public services in New York City could be improved by incorporating greater citizen collaboration in service design and implementation.

Mat Hunter, (Chief Design Officer at the Design Council) will offer a UK perspective on design’s role in social innovation and share some examples of how design, when used well, can solve complex problems and improve everyday life.

Ali Griffin, (Deputy Director of Finance, Camden Council), will provide an overview of the policy context this work sits in, and outline the reasons for applying social innovation approaches to local government service provision.

These speakers will be followed by a quick fire round of presentations sharing examples of social (and service) innovation delivered in collaboration with UK design schools.

After lunch we will stage a ‘collaboration marketplace’. This is an opportunity for public service providers to access the research and innovation capacity of UK Universities, pitching the challenges they face for collaboration with researchers and/or students. There will also be space for researchers and courses to present opportunities for collaboration, both in the context of funded action research , and student projects.. Finally we will come together for a plenary session to reflect on the opportunities identified.

Get Involved

If you work for a public service organisation, or in HE and would like to present a challenge at the workshop please get in touch for further details. Otherwise, just reserve a ticket above.

More about the DESIS Network

The DESIS-UK Network aims to help universities promote and support Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) across their institutions. It provides an opportunity to help shape the pedagogic focus of DESIS in UK Higher Education in a spirit of peer-to-peer collaboration with other institutional partners.

DESIS networking events bring together design academics, practitioners and commissioners, and community end users of design, to build UK capacity for design-led social innovation; creating connections, sharing knowledge/experience and exchanging and reviewing existing practices and projects.

The inaugural DESIS-UK workshop saw the presentation of 15 Higher Education projects where students and staff had collaborated with local partners to deliver design-led social innovation and sustainability projects. This knowledge base was built on in workshop 2 where delegates from HE heard from designers working outside academia delivering design for social innovation. The workshop offered an opportunity to reflect on the skills needed for this work, and whether university courses were offering the opportunities needed to develop these competencies. You can read about these workshops and view presentations on our website at


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