The social justice sector is facing a crisis of imagination. Faced with stubborn, complex social problems and very little infrastructure that supports and tests new ideas, many activists are facing despair and frustration at their lack of ability to create change. The Design Studio is committed to increasing access to opportunities for research and development, whether it's for students reimagining elements of school life, activists reframing the issue of "childhood obesity," or a community trying out new ways to communicate across histories of violence and mistrust.
We use a variety of design tools to research embedded and overlooked elements of daily life and culture that tend to complicate how we see, describe and solve problems. (We believe that description embeds prescription so it cannot go uninspected!) We also share tools for developing and testing new ideas.
Some of the current and recent R&D Labs at the Studio:
- ACTION LAB-- a mobile versioin of the Design Studio that includes both linear and nonlinear design tools to help organizations design social interventions and creative actions. This Lab can be brought to conferences and other convenings.
- SCHOOL LAB-- In the Spring of 2012, School Lab put students at the center of designing solutions for problems they saw in schools. It worked from the perspective that students are the primary users of schools and have important insights to solving problems and coming up with new design solutions if given the tools and support. This lab can be adapted for many school settings and both in-person and online use.
- YOUTH 2 YOUTH--In April 2012, the Youth 2 Youth Action Summit highlighted 3 public social interventions that youth designed with the Studio to address social violence over the past 4 years. We used a frame of taking a horizontal approach to decreasing horizontal violence and working explicitly in public and in ways that used symbols with cultural relevancy to youth. This Lab can be adapted for many urban settings and scales.
- PUBLIC KITCHEN--a “productive fiction” that allows community residents to experience a not-yet-existing public infrastructure that could make their daily lives more vibrant, affordable and healthy. It is our experimentation with exploring how to address the stigma of things that are "public," while also capturing the imaginary about what strong public infrastructure could offer.
- M/B/T/A LAB--In March of 2013, we curated a creativity lab for the On The Move transportation equity summit. We broadened the concept of transportation equity to look at fundamental issues of mobility, the body, human rights, transportation justice fights past and future, and the larger frame of spatial justice.
If you are interested in bringing one of these labs to you or coming to the Studio for R&D, please contact us at action [at] ds4si.org.