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Northumbria DESIS Lab (nDESIS) was established in May 2012 and is one of only two labs in the UK that are recognised by the DESIS International Network. The establishment and recognition of nDESIS reflects and cements the growing importance of social innovation research to Northumbria University Design. Although social innovation is a research theme with broad interest across Northumbria University, it is in Design where it connects with the fields of service design practice and co-designing, as represented by the increasing volume of UG and PGT project based learning activity, research projects and ongoing doctoral projects.

The DESIS International Network was originally established by Ezio Manzini ( to bring together professors, researchers and students working globally to actively promote and deliver design-led social innovation for sustainability. The network comprise of decentralised global, regional and local design 'labs', and acts to "foster social innovation and sustainability by taking part in support projects and programs, gathering together and offering greater visibility to significant cases”. The network also provides a platform to share best practices across the world and to generate useful design knowledge and to create meaningful social changes in collaboration with other stakeholders.

Our Objectives

nDESIS Lab brings together Northumbria Design’s Social Innovation research and teaching activities which focuses on public and third sector innovation through practice-based research that draws on design thinking and practice, social and management disciplines. There are three focal research questions we are trying to address:

1. How should we reconceptualise the role of the designer in social innovation contexts?
2. How could we develop a sustainable socio-economic paradigm to support social innovation practices?
3. How can we make desirable social far futures near futures through the development of appropriate methodologies?

Examples of work

Staff and students work on a variety of social innovation design challenges, which typically include:

• Contract research with third and voluntary sector organizations, see example: Age Concern
• Taught postgraduate students and/or undergraduate students working with staff on design practice learning projects with external collaborative communities and organizations, see example: Percy Hedley Conversion
• Doctoral candidates working on social innovation topics with collaborating researchers and external organizations, see examples: 'Edge Services', 'Understanding Design Methodology in the Public Sector' and 'Service Design – A Systematic Approach to Social Innovation'

Our projects are also published and shared with the wider DESIS community by visiting their website

Recent Activities

Launch Event

We celebrated the launch of nDESIS through a Social Innovation event held on the 10th of July, 2012 at Northumbria Design. We had a number of very interesting and informative presentations that demonstrated the challenges in learning and teaching around social innovation through service co-design project work, also some thought provoking research presentations. You can access the presentations on our ‘Revisit’ page: nDESIS Launch

DESIS-UK Network

nDESIS is also a contributing partner in the DESIS-UK Network funded by AHRC. This project aims to establish DESIS-UK, as a national multidisciplinary network of individuals and organisations exploring design-led social innovation and sustainability, and to identify and agree its aims and objectives and ways of working, in collaboration with stakeholders.

UnLtd RSA Roadshow

Northumbria Design recently hosted a joint UnLtd (The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs) and RSA (Royal Society of Arts) event on the 31st of October 2012. This networking event brought together social entrepreneurs, RSA Fellows and UnLtd business volunteers to share stories, experience and expertise, and gain a greater understanding of what social enterprise is all about.

If you are interested to find out more about nDESIS, please contact Joyce Yee, the Operations Manager for nDESIS Lab.