Co-design for social innovation and organisational change

Developing horizontal relationships in a social enterprise through walking


  • Mirian Calvo ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University
  • Madeleine Sclater The Glasgow School of Art


Design for social change, Social design, Co-design, Mutual learning, Social innovation, Co-creation, Participatory design


Although an emerging body of literature identifies co-design as a promising approach to addressing the most urgent social challenges, little research has been undertaken about how co-design can support social change within the communities and organisations with which they collaborate. This is important because behavioural and organisational change is usually associated with the emergence of social innovations. These pressing socio-cultural challenges require interdisciplinary expertise, and we argue that the practice of co-design is an approach that provides such expertise. Co-design by its nature is collaborative and can respond to the cultural demands of a society eager to participate. These demands require significant research to better understand how the practice of co-design can be a catalyst for social change and social innovation. In this paper, we explore what is meant by co-creation, social design, and co-design within the theoretical context of this study. We present a case study that focuses on a social enterprise committed to sustainability operating within the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Here we examine the transformative process - associated with co-design - that the social enterprise and its members encountered. Participatory Action Research (PAR) was implemented as the research approach to this study informed by ethnographic and co-design methods. The analysis suggests that the co-design process empowered the social enterprise and its members, enabling them to co-develop responsive and empathetic attitudes among themselves. Co-design supported organisational changes by nurturing collaborative attitudes, expanding perspectives about social issues and releasing latent human abilities and assets.

Author Biography

Madeleine Sclater, The Glasgow School of Art

Madeleine is Reader in Art and Design Education and Senior Academic Fellow in Digital Learning at the Glasgow School of Art. Over the last two decades, Madeleine has developed and maintained a strategic international profile in the field of Education, Art and Design Education and Technology Enhanced Learning. With a background in Fine Art (Painting) and digital media, she has pioneered collaborative methodologies for the development of distributed creative practice with particular focus on the use of technology to support learning within art and design education. Her recent research has explored the use of virtual platforms, such as second life, to facilitate the development of collaborative creative practices involving the co-design of virtual methodologies between researchers and participants. In this work she has developed methodologies to develop and support research communities, the sharing and reconstruction of personal narratives, and the development of young people’s voices through photography and film-making.

Her research interests also include: radical pedagogies and their role in studio based education, new practice-based methodologies involving the use of advanced technologies, virtual world research, contemporary practices in arts education, biographical and narrative methodologies, theory in educational research (e.g. activity theory, socio-cultural theory, situated learning, social constructivism, communities of practice), formal and informal learning communities, cognition and democracy in education, and collaborative creative pedagogies.




How to Cite

Calvo, M., & Sclater, M. (2020). Co-design for social innovation and organisational change: Developing horizontal relationships in a social enterprise through walking. DISCERN: International Journal of Design for Social Change, Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 1(1), 78–98. Retrieved from