What does social activism mean in service design context?

Background: Service as a form of social interaction

Anna Meroni, Assistant Professor of Service and Strategic Design at Politecnico di Milano, visited Aalto University on 10 September 2013 at Service Design Goes Public  seminar. Meroni’s main area of interest is social innovation considered in different areas of activity.  Meroni started  her key note speech by defining the disciplinary basis of Service Design, which consist of ethnography, social sciences, management, engineering, behavioral sciences and computing. She defined service as ”a regulated form of co-production of benefits between two or more parties, aiming at solving a certain problem through the application of knowledge and skills”.

Meroni highlighted that service results from an interaction and is a form of social interaction. Designers can create conditions under which these interactions and relationships can happen. Meroni presented four main areas of design interventions: Imagining future directions for service systems, Designing interactions to shape systems and organizations, Exploring new collaborative service models and Designing interactions, relations and experiences and eight main kinds of design contributions in these intervention areas.


Three community-centered co-production cases 

In this blog post I concentrate on one of these interventions: “How to explore new collaborative service models”, with three case examples that Meroni presented.

In the Urban Village case designers worked as interaction consultants finding a group of people wanting to live in a community, finding a proper area for a community and making a fast prototype of how this new service model would look like in the future. To facilitate this interaction between users and professional planners designers used activity cards.  With fast a prototype designers tried also to predict possible problems among the co-housers.

In the House of Flats or Condominio Scarsellini (in Italy) case designers create a common web site and a blog for future residents a year before they moved to the new house of flats in order to get them interact and know each other. The results were promising. Future residents had a lot of things in common: they wanted to have shared WI-Fi, share books and tools, order kitchen equipment and food together and plan areas for children. Also their social life after a few weeks of moving in was very vibrant and mood friendly because they had learnt to know each other via the internet.

In the Farmer´s Market or Nurire Milano 2010 (in Italy) case designers created together with the farmers a vision of the future food system and prototypes of an earth market, a food box, the local distribution system and a vegetable garden inside the campus.  This whole process took place over two years, and it was a trial-and-error process to make things happen soon and as a continuous experimentation.

Nowadays design is an interactive activity where designers work at grass-root level together with future service users creating new service models. Not only users but also designers must be socially active!

This blog post was created as an assignment in SID course The Current Topics.

More about Anna Meroni

More about Design Goes Public seminar

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