Click on the banner below and enjoy the Social Innovation kick starter steps that we co-developed with all our friends at the 2012 London Designers Accord Town Hall.


The second UK Designers Accord Town Hall was held on January 19 at The Design Council offices in London. The event was organised and facilitated by us, Engage by Design, with sponsorship from The Design Council Challenges Team.

People from different industries and ages came together to explore the theme of Social Innovation and what we can do to insure its success.

Following an introduction from Zoë, Engage by Design, and Marianne Guldbrandsen, Head of Design Strategies for the Design Council Challenges Team, six speakers delivered fantastic and thought-provoking presentations:


1: Tools & Skills – The Kaleidoscope Project – Engage by Design
Rodrigo kicked off the presentations with the short film ‘Tools & Skills’ from ‘The Kaleidoscope Project,’ which focuses on using four key values (Balance, Culture, Meaning, and Innovation) to frame the question: “What tools and skills do we need to build a better future?” This was a fantastic way to stimulate the attendees and get the creative juices flowing. Watch all the videos in the series here.

2. Fiona Bennie – Forum for the Future

“How can we enable people to share in a low carbon economy?”
“How can designers make sharing cars appealing?”
“How can low income families save energy?”
“How can looking into the future help designers?”

The prices of everything from food to cotton are rising. As humans and consumers, we need to truly evaluate how we will spend our money. Forum for the Future believes it is all about changing demographics—carbon reduction targets of 50% by 2025 will force people to realize there must be a big change in what we eat, how we travel, and many other things that can easily pass without thought.

Check out this great link from the presentation: Wikihouse bringing affordable housing to the masses in an accessible way.

3. Mike Smart – Challenges Team, The Design Council
“It’s all about being smart with what you can get your hands on, creating ‘low-fi’ solutions to social problems.”
The Challenge Team’s Mike Smart showed us how this is already being done in concrete and non-traditional ways:

    • Jamie Oliver is not only a celebrity chef, but also someone who picks issues and creates campaigns to make change in an accessible way. He makes things visual and tangible, importantly starting on a small scale.
    • Untergunther is another example – they are a group “with a mission”, breaking into abandoned public monuments in order to restore them.

Check out how the Challenges Team is continuing this work with their current projects: The Amazings and Casserole.

4. Andrea Koerselman – OpenIDEO
“It is about making things adaptable for non-designers.”
IDEO makes tools that empower people to engage with design. TheHuman-Centered Design Toolkit is an example specifically aimed at the developing world: taking the design process and adapting it to suit users’ needs.

IDEo’s latest venture in empowerment is OpenIDEO, an online platform for design collaboration in order to solve problems for social good. It currently has 25,429 users and 2,373 concepts. The creation of platforms like this that support great diversity of thinking will make a big difference and greater impact.

5. Gustavo Montes De Oca – Hackney City Farm & The Golden Company 
“There is no waste in nature”
Unlike the rest of the species on Earth, humans consume resources at 1.5 times the speed that they are regenerated. Gustavo advanced the thought that working on developing full cycle waste streams at a local level could be a step in the right direction to move away from the outrageous human consumption, and a way to learn from nature.
First, create an image of a gold mine in your head. Now picture a stream with waste and resources all mixed into one; consider the product designer as the miner within this waste, extracting materials and other treasures to use in their products.

Resources need to be more visible, and stay within a mile of themselves, with an online platform that shows a map of where all these things are: this is what Hackney City Farm want to make a reality. Please contact them if you can help make this a reality or for more information:

6. Paul Miller – The School of EverythingSocial Innovation Camp, and Bethnal Green Ventures
“Technology: We need to apply what we have learned over the last 10-15 years.”
Technology has revolutionized things, especially in the media. However, these same technologies are only at the beginning of solving real challenges and re-organizing systems. Bethnal Green Ventures find a problem, turns it into an idea, and develops the concept into a business, and builds the solution to scale.

Inspiring quote from Paul to remember: “Find a need and a customer; build something simple; measure its success; learn what works and what doesn’t; keep doing that!”

After a short break and a glass of wine the room was split into 8 groups and given the question: “What are the 3 actions I/we can take to generate Social Innovation?”
After such an inspiring collection of speakers, 3 actions per group was hard to stick to.

At the top of this page you can click on and download the framework for social innovation that was co developed in the workshop half of the town hall.

This framework is still in beta, it needs you to help it grow. Please download, share and use the comments box at the bottom of this page whether you were at the town hall or not!

You can see more photos from the event on the DABrighton flickr page here.

Recap written by Em Gunning & Photos taken by Rachel Sereno.

Wonderful videos by the brilliant Laura Kidd.