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An approach to social innovation

DAC's philosophy at CSM is linked to a practice-led socially responsive design research agenda.

Design Against Crime (DAC) as an approach to design led social innovation emerged at University of the Arts London from 1999 and continues to evolve. At the Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC) we adopt a multi disciplinary approach to designing against crime . We bring together designers, design catalysts (those whose sense making (21) skills and insights can ’join the dots’ for designers to inspire and focus design innovation), and researchers as well as multi disciplinary research teams including; criminologists and crime scientists, anthropologists, engineers, manufacturers, the police and other stakeholders to design out opportunities for crime, and to commercialise DAC ideas. Our approach prioritises design ‘questioning’ over ‘problem solving’. It is often about using ‘design thinking’, usually visually articulated, to look at the wider social context, and to enable stakeholders and partners, who we regularly involve in all our projects, to do that too and to help us innovate (22) . This approach is becoming more common to design, and has been described in many different ways. Hilary Cottam et al, for example, have called this process ‘Transformation Design’ (23) , and incorporate ideas about eco-design and ‘participatory design’ into the account. Transforming thinking and creating design exemplars with multiple stakeholders, to join up multi- agency agendas, is certainly part of what DACRC delivers since it emerged in 1999, leading to the creation of design exemplars that aim to use design for positive social change.

At DACRC we understand that ‘things’ as well as people cause problems (24) . When delivering DAC our team uses all the tools at its disposal to help the designer to integrate the latest research knowledge (including that from design and crime science) into the account of user and abuser centred design. Often we build on the theory of Situational Crime Prevention (SCP), which considers ‘opportunities’ (linked to objects/ environments/ services), prompts, provocations and pressures to be the ‘root cause’ of crime, not just offenders. But we also realise that designing out crime needs to be approached holistically, and it is here where DAC has much in common with ‘social design’. There are many websites that document or categorise social design – many included case studies of our work.

Sites such as socialdesignsite, and Core 77 (25) reveal how many designers are today creating projects, objects, systems and services that aim to deliver social change i.e. to produce social as well as fiscal capital, to make social innovation a goal of the design process. We call the way we do this, our process, Socially Responsive Design (SRvD) – that is, ‘design which takes as its primary driver social issues, its main consideration social impact and its main objective social change(26). We believe the way we have realised DAC provides important case studies of how to deliver SRvD practice successfully. We are aware, however, there is a real difference between social innovation and social impact (27). This is why we are pleased that some of our work has already been audited by Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), whose independent report about design impact can be downloaded here.

Staff who work for DACRC often engage in design questioning, drawing on traditional design methodologies and design thinking, before we decide if the crime question can be solved by a design solution, rather than another type of response. When we understand design’s role, our researchers, designers and interns, may approach the problem by drawing upon multidisciplinary sources that include usual design discourses, SCP and crime science information and frameworks, but also focusing on, as already mentioned, user-centred or inclusive methodologies as well as other holistic discourses.

For products, systems and services to be successful we recognise that the user’s needs should be ‘designed in’ as much as the abuser’s needs should be ‘designed out’. If this delicate balance is not addressed correctly, the design will be compromised by an over determination of its resistance to abuse, often reflected in a less than ‘friendly’ functionality, as well as an aesthetic that may look “criminal” and contribute to “fortress aesthetics” – what we would describe as ‘security’ design rather than ‘secure’ design. DACRC’s approach to design against crime uses information gleaned from traditional primary and secondary research and ‘open sources’ via stakeholder networks linked to an ‘open innovation’ (28) approach to ensure our understanding is as up to date and as appropriate as possible. Accessing the best information that can be located is important to research and feeds into the design process, and has inspired us to make sure, in turn, we make our own resources free and openly accessible to others. We argue our model of the Design Process, written up by Gamman and Thorpe (2007) and called the Twin Track Approach (See also Section 3) is linked to open innovation, and an emergent approach. This means the objects, systems and services DAC realises or produces are not always pre-planned and certainly not predetermined at the outset of a project, nor always delivered via a market led approach (although they can be) but rather defined from stakeholder consultation and targeted to understandings about what is needed to minimise the impact and incidence of crime in the context in question.