Navigating these turbulent times of interconnected crises calls for a creative, forward-looking attitude towards the envisioned “extraordinary turnarounds”, enabling sustainable development for “most of the world” within our planetary boundaries (Earth4All, 2022). Present and future transformations within a “decade of action” (UN 2030 Agenda) require new forms of collaboration, unexpected alliances across the boundaries of disciplines, and thus a further revitalised sense of what design is and how it can contribute to addressing the current challenges.
The design disciplines’ contribution to sustainable development often aims at reducing the use of harmful materials, developing more efficient processes, improving design principles, and changing personal behaviour. However, designers also contribute to sustainable development by shaping the framework conditions of innovative social practices for transformation. They do this by mediating and navigating between academic disciplines, professional methods, and cultural conventions across the four orders of design (Buchanan, 1992): symbols, products, interactions, and systems. These interventions might produce goods and services, educational opportunities, grassroots innovations, co-created visions for desirable futures, contributions to organisational transformation and regeneration, or contributions to a fundamental reconceptualization of the design disciplines in research and education.
The PhD Programme "Eco-Social Innovation by Design" is open to design educators and professionals seeking to expand their knowledge base and reinvent their practice while pushing the boundaries of the design disciplines through the creation of new ‘grounded’ theories. In doing so, we encourage prospective design researchers to "learn by doing" and to learn in a practice setting. We accompany our doctoral students in their learning process towards the development of a design intervention, which is furthermore theoretically contextualized in a dissertation thesis.
The programme prepares PhD students for senior positions in education in research and teaching, in the management of private or public organizations, or in eco-social entrepreneurship. PhD students benefit from a diversity of perspectives, the interregional exchange of academic practices and problem-solving strategies, the plurality of different innovation cultures, and the opportunity to learn and conduct practice research within a transcultural environment in Switzerland and India.