The Role and Value of Relationships in Design and Social Innovation: Insights from Asia-Pacific Contexts

Timeframe: 2018-2021

Social innovation is recognised as capable of offering interpretations of, and solutions to, a variety of contemporary societal problems. Often, the innovation is not a material object, but a social interaction or practice, with relationships playing a key role by being both the precondition and the result of social innovation. Design is also increasingly seen as a valuable tool, knowledge or method to tackle social innovation challenges; however, its relational character has been somewhat overlooked in traditional education and research. The purpose of this PhD research, conducted by Viola Petrella, is to explore what role relationships and relationality have within design and social innovation (D&SI). The ultimate goal is to contribute to (re)defining the designer’s position within an emerging field of design study and practice that has a social, relational and communal core. The research will draw from the researcher’s practice in Italy informed by experiences and examples from the Asia Pacific region, seeking to enrich the discourse around D&SI by welcoming a variety of perspectives and cultural nuances while surfacing attitudes and values that may be assumed as universal in design practice.