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The making of design creatives: Unlocking design capabilities to address societal challenges

Thursday, April 20, 2023 - 12:00 to 13:00
Berrill Lecture Theatre, Walton Hall, The Open University, MK6 7AA

In his inaugural lecture, Theo Zamenopoulos, Professor of Citizen-led design, Engineering & Innovation, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, will discuss the work and capabilities of design creatives and their contribution to addressing societal challenges.

Watch a trailer of Theo Zamenopoulous's lecture:

Who are the design creatives? What do they do?

What role do they play in tackling societal challenges?

What makes them capable to carry out their work?

In my inaugural lecture I will discuss the work of those I call design creatives.

I will discuss their capabilities and contribution in addressing value-sensitive societal challenges that are rooted in our places; challenges related with the regeneration of our built and natural environment, our heritage, our wellbeing, our healthy ageing and our social participation and inclusivity.

Please, do join our conversation.


The lecture will report on research co-designed and co-delivered with citizens, professionals, and organisations across different sectors, and will be of interest to policy makers, researchers and organisations interested to explore the contribution of design creatives in addressing societal challenges and how to foster this kind of practice.

Building on the work of Amartya Sen, the economist and philosopher, this lecture will approach societal challenges and sustainable development as a place-capability problem: as a problem of developing opportunities within places, for the human and non-human actors of a place, to grow and develop what is of value for them and others. Places are not seen simply as built or natural environments, but as ecosystems within which a network of human and non-human elements are connected around a perceived or contested value.

In this context, the lecture will discuss the rise of design creatives: an emerging form of practice carried out by citizens, professionals and organisations that goes beyond the traditional conception of design as a profession concerned with the development of commodities (products, buildings or services) to serve needs. Design creatives carry out values-driven design work that is also concerned with the parallel development of cultural, social and natural resources to unearth and support these values.

The lecture reflects on the insights developed through a number of UK Research and Innovation-funded collaborative research projects over the last 10 years, which centred on understanding the characteristics and practices of design creatives and on developing practical ways to foster design capabilities to make the work of design creatives possible. From a pool of over 65 cases of design creatives developed in different contexts and at different levels, the lecture will focus on a small number of case stories presented to highlight the practical ways that design capabilities can be fostered to help deal with societal challenges.

Such challenges include barriers or opportunities for citizens, businesses or organisations to engage with the regeneration of our natural and built environments, to enhance our cultural heritage, foster social innovations, reduce inequalities or to improve wellbeing and inclusivity in our (ageing) society. These challenges are multidimensional but also deeply existential, place-sensitive and value-formative.



Watch the webinar online

Please take the opportunity to have your questions answered by our speakers LIVE during the event:

Email your questions Use #OUtalks on Twitter

Timings Item
11:00 Registration opens and coffee/tea available on arrival
12:00 Inaugural lecture: The making of design creatives: Unlocking design capabilities to address societal challenges
12:40 Q&A
13:00 Reception

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