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Design insights for socially-led interventions

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Design has become an accessible tool for organizations to create impactful outputs. These topics have diverged from mere retail to include: economic prospects, technological paradigms, social empowerment, sustainable resources, citizen-led opportunities and challenges that cross demographics, societies and cultures. Accessible technologies and the reduction of barriers to pilot funding have (in part) enabled the advancement of these socially-led responses through design. ‘Enablers’ take many forms including: digital manufacturing, accessible hardware, design platforms and smart technologies, all challenging what ‘designed products’ are as the ‘product’ is a social impact or intervention. The work mines embedded knowledge from successful award-winning organizations, which have not publically shared their unique insights. The work analyses an interview series of 60 plus CEOs, founders and co-founders of socially-led organizations with both design and non-design origins. The work identifies socially-led design ‘architectures’, highlighting issues, lessons and transferable insights. The study includes global organizations occupying territories of: not-for-profits, commercial practices, grass roots organizations, science practitioners, community-led ventures and intellectual property enterprises, selected from leading awards. The article identifies insights leading towards ‘socially-led product architecture’, and repeatable lessons, for non-design and design audiences.
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Keywords: design approaches; design for agency; financially sustainable; not-for-profit; product architecture; socially-led design

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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  • The Journal of Design, Business & Society is a peer-reviewed scholarly publication for business leaders, managers, policy-makers, service-providers and design experts. It examines the complex nature of design and design thinking in relation to its effective application to solving real-world problems across commercial and broader societal contexts. It aims to promote cross-disciplinary design research which engages specialist and generalist stakeholders via qualitative, quantitative, visual or applied research methodologies, ultimately leading to tangible implications for current practice or clear direction for future work.
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