Social Design as Interdisciplinary Practice

Duration of the project

01.06.2022. - 15.11.2022.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

Estonian Academy of Arts
Humboldt University of Berlin
University of Goettingen
Art Academy of Latvia
Latvian Academy of Culture
Tallinn University of Technology

Project manager

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Francisco Martínez

Aims of the project

The main purpose of this project is to have an innovative debate on how to think a professional ‘between’ the social sciences and design, while incorporating the methodology, training and critique of anthropology into design practice itself.


Specifically, this collective application seeks support for four interrelated activities around a symposium:

  1. Organisation of a three-day thematic event in Tallinn for scholars and practitioners to delineate the content and contour of Social Design. We will learn together from and about the epistemological middle-ground that make possible ethnographic research, collaborative practices and social transformations.
  2. Generate conditions to develop a relevant MA programme in Social Design. We will gather advice from colleagues to articulate our programme, opening up a reflection on how design might be undertaken as a socially proactive practice and how to assess these interdisciplinary, multimodal practices within universities.
  3. Following these pedagogical aims, we also want to develop infrastructures of collaboration and deepen the quality of our relations, consolidating transnational networks with the capacity to articulate and lead the emerging field of social design.
  4. Besides having an input on the coherent articulation of our MA in Social Design, the parts involved will work towards a book proposal that can serve as a manual for those interested in the field.

Main activities of the project

  1. Organisation of the ‘Social Design’ symposium at the Estonian Academy of Arts
  2. Preparation of a book to be published by UCL Press
  3. Receive expert feedback about the MA in Social Design, which is currently being developed in the Estonian Academy of Arts, expected to open in 2023.
  4. Support two visits by the PL, to Berlin and Göttingen (5-14 October), and to Riga (25 Oct-2 Nov).

With these visits, we aim to:

  1. Training the PL as future coordinator of the Social Design MA. During the visit, I will be learning about the practicalities of similar programmes at the hosting universities, while meeting local colleagues and stakeholders active in the field;
  2. To deepen the exiting collaboration and develop innovative infrastructures of cooperation with these institutions, exploring possibilities such as further funding applications;
  3. Having the opportunity to present the ongoing research of the PI as well as the documentation of the symposium with a reflexive, critical approach;
  4. Raise the international profile of the Estonian Academy of Arts, placing the emphasis on the new collaborative projects that engage with current societal issues, on creative research methods, and on multimodal pedagogies.

Project target group

Direct: The direct target group are social scientists and design professionals (25) and graduate students (45) attending the symposium. Besides colleagues from the Estonian Academy of Arts working in other departments, we might also expect that scholars from Tallinn University and Tallinn Technical University will also attend the round tables. There is an increasing interest in re-framing the social and in sharing new modes of inquiry, being able to work collaboratively with different disciplines and points of view. This will be also articulated through the active communication and documentation of the symposium, as well as written in the form of a collective publication.

Indirect: Stakeholders (50), such as urban planners, activists, media leaders, entrepreneurs in start-ups and policy makers (municipalities, hospitals, prisons, state officials). Besides being proactive in the documentation and communication of the symposium, and besides inviting different stakeholders to attend the round tables, the results of the symposium will allow us to advance in the articulation of the field of social design in Estonia and to reach potential partners for future collaborations.