First university research lab from Cyprus to be admitted to the DESIS Network
~May 2021 - The Art+Design: elearning lab – Design for social change (www.elearningartdesign.org) may be the smallest lab in the Department of Multimedia and Graphic Arts at Cyprus University of Technology (CUT), but it punches above its weight in international collaboration. As of May 2021, the lab has been admitted to the DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) Network as the first DESIS Network lab from Cyprus (www.desisnetwork.org/courses/cyprus-limassol-art-design-elearning-lab/). This Network comprises a worldwide group of 59 labs from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America that engage with the broad area of social design, sustainability, and innovation.
DESIS was founded in 2009 by Professor Ezio Manzini, a world-renowned Italian design academic who has authored extensively in the area and travels the world promoting these objectives. The Art+Design: elearning lab – Design for social change was established in 2011, focusing originally on technology-enhanced learning and design education. Since 2016, and with the addition of researchers from Portugal, England, Greece and Australia, the lab has developed an active interest in design for social change.
In the last few years, lab members have published extensively in social design education, social entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2017, the lab introduced the only multidisciplinary and cross-departmental undergraduate unit of studies at CUT and the first of its kind in Cyprus. In this unit of studies, learners from different disciplines (Faculty of Management and Economics and the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts) work collaboratively and apply design thinking over one semester to address social challenges at a local level (www.designforsocialchange.org/
student_projects). These learners acquire several life-long competencies to deal with complex challenges.
Last year, the lab established the first at Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) and the first in Cyprus open access peer-reviewed academic journal with an international editorial team, titled DISCERN, International Journal of Design for Social Change, Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship (www.designforsocialchange.org/journal/index.php/DISCERN-J). All these activities have been complemented with participation in Erasmus+ funded projects with an explicit focus on social design and ongoing collaborations with Hub Nicosia – a social innovation space and incubator for social enterprises (www.hubnicosia.org).
The co-ordinators of the lab, Dr Nicos Souleles and Dr Andrew Laghos, said: “We hope that membership of the DESIS Network will inspire other research labs and educational institutions in a country where design for social change is underdeveloped both in practice and in higher education to apply for DESIS membership”.
The demanding process for admission to the DESIS Network started in 2016 when the Art+Design: elearning lab started focusing on activities and outputs towards design for social change. At the start of 2021, a formal application was made to join the Network, and this was assessed by the DESIS International Coordination Committee.
Membership of DESIS will open up opportunities for social design collaborations with the other members of the Network, including synergies to connect diverse local social innovation cases into larger regional projects. Inevitably, this will also enhance the learning experiences of students at Cyprus University of Technology who undertake the unit ‘Design for Social Change, Innovation and Entrepreneurship’. More info at: www.desisnetwork.org