The Method

Method « Social Innovation Projects

The investigation stage of the project is in reality an immersion – it is a phase of design projects when the student is completely enclosed by information and listens to the ‘experts’ or the ‘affected’ and is the novice. It involves a series of activities that generate resources for the Exploration phase. The student is looking at this stage for inconsistencies and for the keys that would come in use in the future in the exploratory phase. The phase is thus characterised by a disorganized exploration on one side and systematic documentation on the other. In an important aspect of this phase the student is frequently asked to ‘place’ the origin of understandings made, and to recognize that the discourses at play are driven by a set of expert, commercial, personal, empathetic and reactive motivations. The immersive phase of the project aids the final report of the project when reporting on the current state of affairs of the situation.

Exploration is the second main stage of the methodology. It is a responsive action to the problems and stories collected from the earlier phase. The student takes all the information gathered from the investigation phase, and explores the potential possibilities for a solution. From these stories is constructed a ‘problem / solution’ matrix of all the different observable phenomena and stories gathered in the previous stage. From this the students construct multiple scenarios that act to visualize the moments of tension that a diabetic might have in the course of fairly normal activities. These scenarios are expanded and solutions are considered. A process of ‘back-casting’ these stories provides a way of evaluating the impact of the problems found and any potential solutions that are generated (Vergragt 2001). Additionally, problems are also approached from a field work/case study perspective with more concise conversations and interviews held to narrow down and refine the exploration material.

Once enough data has been generated and examined, the student will begin to speculate and design on specific items or services that can achieve a positive effect through intervention. Services or materials are examined, refined, and realised to reach a level of quality that would facilitate a successful intervention. This finally leads to the last phase, demonstration.

Having intervened, feedback and refinement based from the performance during intervention is correlated and put back into the project, with additional studies to enable further refinement and realization of the intervention. The method thus constrains students to tell stories about events through posters and designs were to be communicated by simulating public discourses such as product advertising and pamphlets.

The method is an adaptation, a conjuring up of and refinement of more fuzzy practices drawn from established practices in development, social work and sustainability research the group of designers involved in this dialogue indulged in. The need to take real projects into the classroom is also a common practice in design education and the present method has served well as the following case study illustrates in one application of the method.


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