For more than two decades Ezio Manzini has been working in the field of design for sustainability. Recently, he focused his interests on social innovation –he started, and currently coordinates, DESIS, an international network on design for social innovation and sustainability.
Throughout his professional life he worked at the Politecnico di Milano. Parallel to this, he has collaborated with several international schools, such as: Domus Academy (in the 90s), Hong Kong Polytechnic University (in 2000) and, currently, Tongji University (Shanghai), Jiangnan University (Wuxi), COPPE-UFRJ (Rio de Janeiro), and Parsons (New York).
Recent books include:
- Sustainable everyday, Milano: Edizioni Ambiente, 2003 (with Francois Jegou);
- Design for environmental sustainability, London: Springer, 2008 (with Carlo Vezzoli);
- Collaborative services. Social innovation and design for sustainability, Polidesign: Milano, 2008 (with Francois Jegou).
In 2012 he co-promoted Public & Collaborative NYC — a program of activities, developed by Parsons DESIS Lab and the Public Policy Lab in New York, to explore how public services can be improved by incorporating greater citizen collaboration in service design and implementation.
During the lengthy interview Manzini delves deeper into the essence of social innovation, and specifically what designers can do to support it:
“All the social innovation processes are design processes. And all the involved actors, adopting a design approach, are (consciously or not) designers.
If we take all of that as given, then the question is: if all the social innovation actors—“ordinary people” included—are de-facto designers, what is the role of the design experts and of their design community?
To make a long story short, we could say that the design experts’ role is is to use their expertise (that is, their specific design knowledge) to empower the other social actors’ design capabilities.” […]
“It comes, in conclusion, that design for social innovation is what the design experts can do to trigger and support a more effective co-design processes.”
Also of interest is Manzini’s reflection on the role of public services, the State, and the European Union.