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DESIS Lab - Parsons The New School for Design
Lara Penin
Co-founder Parsons DESIS Lab, Assistant Professor Transdisciplinary Design
Italian  Portuguese
About this Mapmaker

Parsons DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) Lab is a research laboratory created in 2009 at The New School in New York City. DESIS Lab works at the intersection of strategic and service design, management, and social theory, applying interdisciplinary expertise in problem setting and problem solving to sustainable practices and social innovation.

Parsons DESIS Lab promotes funded research projects with local partners resulting in workshops, studios toolkits, exhibitions and publications that articulate the practice of social change through design-enable sustainable community initiatives.

Statement of Purpose

DESIS Lab members explore the relationship between design and social change. 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 facing numerous systemic challenges, DESIS Lab members rethink assumptions about cultural and economic environments, bringing nuanced approaches drawn from integrated design practices to communities of all kinds. In the DESIS Lab, service design is considered an advanced approach, one integrating many design disciplines.
Three foundations guide our research in design strategies:
• Bridging structural holes: Social settings often suffer from severe information asymmetries. We seek to bridge information gaps and find ways of sharing needed information more effectively.
• Valuing tacit knowledge: People in a social system rely on both explicit forms of knowledge and “tacit knowledge”—information individuals and communities develop and share through habits and customs. The use of participatory design methods reveals and codifies this subjective knowledge.
• Nurturing heterarchies: Whereas researchers have focused on social hierarchies and structural asymmetries, little attention has been paid to heterarchies—the lateral forms of collaboration through which social life is constructed. We promote such interdependent networks as it generates more opportunities for heterogeneous forms of collaboration.

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