Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The discourse of design for social innovation.

Bugali, Hilal; Fairburn, Susan Marie


Hilal Bugali

Susan Marie Fairburn


Social innovation is an interdisciplinary area, where many professionals work collaboratively towards public good. In the last decade, design practitioners in the UK have shown increasing interest in social innovation projects and much of the existing literature on design for social innovation (DfSI) is influenced by studies that draw from these practices. Theory to support practice-based studies is yet to be fully developed. The research informing this paper regards DfSI as a discourse; the flow of knowledge, which determines individual and collective doing and formative action that shapes society, thus exercising power (J{uml}ager and Maier 2016). It focuses on the political agency of design in supporting social innovation process and is informed by concepts from Foucault (e.g. power, discourse). We present a methodology based on dispositive analysis (a particular approach within critical discourse studies) to aid the examination of DfSI's political nature. This methodology builds on J{uml}ager and Maier's (2016:113) three-part model of dispositive, and is useful to reveal any assumptions, contradictions, and limitations of what can be said and done within the DfSI discourse. The resulting awareness from this process enriches the design methodologies, and can support theoretical developments to underpin the practice. The paper explains how the dispositive model can be employed in the design field, and offers emerging insights from a select set of texts, as an example of the discursive approach. These texts are a heterogeneous selection from design literature that traces the influences of different local and temporal discursive contexts on the global DfSI discourse.


BUGALI, H. and FAIRBURN, S. 2016. The discourse of design for social innovation. Presented at the 8th International social innovation research conference: social innovation in the 21st century; beyond welfare capitalism, 5-7 September 2016, Glasgow, UK.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 8th International social innovation research conference: social innovation in the 21st century; beyond welfare capitalism
Conference Location Glasgow, UK
Start Date Sep 5, 2016
End Date Sep 7, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 19, 2016
Keywords Design for social innovation; Discourse; Dispositive; Foucault
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations