Ezio Manzini, "Making Things Happen"

Ezio Manzini, “Making things happen: Social innovation and design,” Design Issues 30 (1), 57-66, 2014.

In this article, Manzini distinghuises between bottom-up and top-down innovation. Organizations like BCC and BYI obviously fall under the bottom-up header, much like the New York City Community Gardens that Manzini gives as an example. There are also hybrid processes , where “the ones undertaken directly by the people concerned (bottom-up) are often supported by different kinds of intervention provided by institutions, civic organizations, or companies (top-down)” (p. 63).

As a group, it may be helpful to ask ourselves where we (want to) fit into this scheme. Are we ‘professional designers’? If so, do we want to, in Manzini’s words, “design with communities” or “design for communities”? Are we, instead, assisting bottom-up initiatives (i.e., our partners) as co-designers?

Even more importantly, as Equity-Centered Community Design emphasizes, we need to ask our community partners where they want us to fit into the scheme.

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Douwe, this is an important question to broach as we’re about to get more involved with our partner organizations. I hope, especially after this semester, we will comport ourselves as co-designers, designing with the community. I do imagine that the tendency to design for may rear its head at times. Speaking from my own academic and professional experience, I’ve felt the “business as usual” drive to innovate and deliver. When prioritizing the “quiet yourself and listen” approach is incongruent with the greater academic/professional context in which we (I, speaking for myself) grow and learn, it may be difficult in practice to not fall back onto old habits. This is something I’ll be trying to stay wary of as we move into our collaborations.