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    Parsons DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) Lab is a research laboratory created in 2009 at The New School in New York City. DESIS Lab works at the intersection of strategic and service design, management, and social theory, applying interdisciplinary expertise in problem setting and problem solving to sustainable practices and social innovation.

    • Parsons Desis Lab
    • Parsons Desis Lab
    • Parsons Desis Lab
    • Parsons Desis Lab
  • Vision

    DESIS Lab members explore the relationship between design and social change. Our goal is to advance the practice and discourse of design-led social innovation to foster more equitable and sustainable cities and practices. In a complex world facing numerous systemic challenges, DESIS Lab members rethink assumptions about cultural and economic environments, bringing nuanced approaches drawn from integrated design practices to communities of all kinds. In the DESIS Lab, service design is considered an advanced approach, one integrating many design disciplines.

    Foundations

    Three foundations guide our research in design strategies:

    • Bridging structural holes: Social settings often suffer from severe information asymmetries. We seek to bridge information gaps and find ways of sharing needed information more effectively.
    • Valuing tacit knowledge: People in a social system rely on both explicit forms of knowledge and “tacit knowledge”—information individuals and communities develop and share through habits and customs. The use of participatory design methods reveals and codifies this subjective knowledge.
    • Nurturing heterarchies: Whereas researchers have focused on social hierarchies and structural asymmetries, little attention has been paid to heterarchies—the lateral forms of collaboration through which social life is constructed. We promote such interdependent networks as it generates more opportunities for heterogeneous forms of collaboration.

    Local and Global

    The lab works with local partners in New York City and with global partners through the DESIS Network, participating in large-scale research programs and projects to effect social change. The DESIS Network consists of more than 30 design labs based in universities around the world that orient their teaching and research activities towards social innovation and sustainability. DESIS processes and initiatives involve the following:

    • Collecting social innovation practices and generating greater visibility for them
    • Promoting collaborative projects and organizing academic events to explore these practices
    • Developing teaching tools and co-producing courses internationally to showcase these practices and their contextual variations
    • Carrying out comparative research programs to track these practices and their outcomes

    Visit the DESIS Network website for more information.

    Social Innovation Initiative

    Parsons DESIS Lab is part of the New School Social Innovation Initiative, a program incubator for diverse activities that advance, broaden, and deepen social innovation–related education at the university.

    Visit the Social Innovation Initiative website for more information.

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