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Title: Designed from the inside out: developing capacity for social sustainability in design through collaboration
Authors: McMahon, Muireann
Keywords: Sustainable Design
Social sustainability
Design education
Design practice
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: © Muireann McMahon
Abstract: The paradigm of design is changing. Designers now need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge that will enable them to participate in the global move towards a sustainable future. The tenets of Sustainable Development and Design: economy and environment are being dealt with extensively in both practice and theory. The social elements, unfortunately, have proven more difficult to define and implement. The challenges arise as social sustainability deals with softer and more complex issues as diverse and unquantifiable as ethics, values, cultural diversity, holistic perspectives, collective and personal responsibility. The competencies needed to address these wicked problems are based in the realm of Social Sustainability and require a shift in how designers are taught as students and will subsequently practice as professionals. This thesis proposes that by introducing various models of collaboration into design education the capacity for responsible design practice can be developed. Arguably, by capitalising on the process of collaboration a culture of individual and collective sharing can be encouraged leading to new knowledge and openness to multi-disciplinarity, holistic perspectives and diverse cultural backgrounds. Across a Delphi Study and four consecutive phases of Action Research, the competencies for social sustainability in design are identified and their emergence evaluated through practical collaborative projects in an educational setting. From the panel of twenty-one design experts the Delphi Study developed a construct for social sustainability in design, as well as an initial Framework of the key competencies. These two tools were then used to underpin the planning, implementation and subsequent analysis of the four Action Research phases. The pragmatic nature of Action Research allowed for continuous iteration and development, where data gathered through each phase informed the proceeding phase so as to fix on an approach that is both realisable and realistic. This thesis does not offer a panacea solution but rather a pathway towards achieving the necessary changes in design practice. The findings clearly show that building capacity for responsible design practice is not a simple or one size fits all approach, as each individual experience is different. The construct, framework of competencies (and their interconnections) along with the guidelines for effective collaboration, provide a starting point that can be built upon, evolve and progress as the debate around sustainability becomes more clearly defined. Over time these generic design skills can be honed and refined to meet previously unmet societal challenges.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/12121
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Design School)

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