Social Innovation for Sustainability

Creative Communities and Sustainable Communities  A presentation by Ezio Manzini

Organized by Dr. Catherine Etmanski, Paul Gilbert and Madelaine Hjermstad
Centre for Dialogue, Royal Roads University
April 5th, 2012


Over the past decade social innovation has been spreading: a variety of social actors throughout the world (institutions, enterprises, non-profit organizations and, most of all, networks of collaborative people) have moved outside mainstream models of thinking and doing, generating a variety of initiatives such as community-supported agriculture, co-housing, carpooling, community gardens, neighbourhood care, talent exchange and time banks. These initiatives propose viable solutions to the complex social, economic, environmental, and spiritual challenges of our times.

Behind each innovation are people who have been able to imagine, develop, and manage something new, outside the standard ways of thinking and doing; they have shattered mainstream ideas about how problems were meant to be solved. They represent working prototypes of sustainable ways of living and, as such, social innovation is changing the world by proposing new ideas of time, place, work, and economy.

These innovations ask for more sustainable behaviours in order to enjoy them—qualities that substitute for the unsustainable ones that have been predominant in the past century. These creative communities represent different views of a wider whole: the different sides of a complex ‘pluriverse’ that are the signals of an emerging culture. Or better, of an emerging civilization.

Ezio Manzini is an Italian design strategist, one of the world’s leading experts on sustainable design, and founder of the DESIS network of university-based design labs (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability). Most recently, his interests have focussed on social innovation and on what design can do to support it. His work over the past 30 years in sustainability and social innovation has coalesced around four watchwords: small, local, open and connected.  For more information on Manzini's work, visit the Sustainable Everday Project and the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS Network) websites.



Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5



The following are paraphrases of questions asked at the end of the session. You can access audio clips of Manzini's responses by clicking on their respective questions. Click the question again to stop audio.


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