Innovation with a Social Face

That is something I believe in – innovation and sociality ofcourse.

But I also disagree with the dominant discourse in design – which I feel is elitist and marginal.

I’m Soumitri Varadarajan, designer, blogger, occassional photographer and full-time daydreamer. I live in Melbourne, Australia with my two excitable children, my soul-mate and Moshu, a medium haired moggie. From 1998 to 2002 I obsessively worked to define, set-up and launch two service design initiatives (The Campus Recycling Programme and the Rickshaw Project) which became two service NGOs and a micro-service-enterprise. In 2003 I submitted my PhD (the Life Cycle of the Object) and soon after moved to Melbourne, Australia straight into the Learner Centered Project which I did for three years. In 2006 I pulled back to focus upon social innovation – and my work in service design in diabetes care. Next term I am re-entering the undergraduate space to teach social innovation to school leavers – by getting them to work on three ‘authentic projects’. And as all this happens I will record and vent on this blog

Contact: You can contact Soumitri to know more about the projects, or to join in the Campaign Work. You can also see more information about his work here.

Content:The focus of all the courses and projects is ‘social innovation‘: as text from the wikipedia says it – “Social innovation refers to new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet social needs of all kinds – from working conditions and education to community development and health – and that extend and strengthen civil society. Over the years, the term has developed several overlapping meanings. It can be used to refer to social processes of innovation, such as open source methods. Alternatively it can be used to innovations which have a social purpose – like microcredit or distance learning. The concept can also be related to social entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship isn’t always or even usually innovative, but it can be a means of innovation) and it also overlaps with innovation in public policy and governance. Social innovation can take place within government, within companies, or within the nonprofit sector (also known as the third sector), but is increasingly seen to happen most effectively in the space between the three sectors.”

Design Practice: Soumitri has worked from 1986, when he finished from design school, with non-profits. From 1998 he began pushing his projects to become ventures – such as the Campus Recycling Programme (1998-2003) becoming two non-profit ventures employing the workforce of the project. In recent years he has focussed his work on two areas – one (the artificial pancreas) deals with design of products and services for people with diabetes, and the other deals with the transformation of consumption practices (Renounce, Spending Habits and Locavore Project). Additionally he has restarted projects in the area of sustainable transportation – Project Icarus.


You can see images of his projects in his flikr site and his image archive.