Parsons Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab (DESIS Lab) is an action research laboratory founded in 2009 at The New School in New York City. DESIS Lab works at the intersection of design and social theory, applying interdisciplinary expertise to sustainable practices and social innovation.
Vision and Mission
Our goal is to advance the practice and discourse of design-led social innovation to foster more equitable and sustainable cities and practices. In a complex world posing overwhelming systemic challenges, the DESIS Lab’s team reconsiders ossified assumptions about our contemporary social, cultural, and economic landscapes. Using integrated design practices, the lab develops creative responses to critical and pressing problems. Our emphasis on service design as a practice based in social justice is just one approach we employ to initiate and support efforts for social change.
In response to the dauntingly complex and deeply intertwined consequences arising from contemporary issues such as the global rise of neo-fascism, ongoing crises related to the COVID-19 pandemic, war, migration, racism, xenophobia, and a worldwide economic recession, the DESIS Lab reaffirms its commitment to:
- Publicly acknowledging and addressing indigenous sovereignty, radical planetary interdependence and recognizing social, cultural, and biological diversity as vital resources to nurture and protect all living species and environments
- Investigating and proposing action to address the interdependencies between natural systems and our own lives
- Addressing social, political, and economic inequities
- Valuing and developing the commons to support the well-being of all communities for overall vitality and as a starting point for designing
Local and Global Collaborations
The lab works with local partners in New York City and with global partners through the DESIS Network, participating in small and large-scale research programs and projects to effect meaningful grassroots change. The DESIS Network consists of around 50 design labs based in universities around the world that orient their teaching and research activities toward social innovation and sustainability.
DESIS initiatives include:
- Collecting and highlighting social innovation practices to generate greater visibility for these diverse methods
- Promoting collaborative projects and organizing academic events to explore and advance emerging knowledges and practices
- Developing teaching tools and co-producing courses internationally to showcase these practices and their contextual variations
- Carrying out comparative research programs to track practices and improve outcomes