DSIL: A Community Designed by Designers

Series 13/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.

Mini Series 1/2: The Route Ahead – The series investigates the direction required to structure an organisation around the values of Human Centred Design.


When I first started on the journey to South East Asia I believed Sustainable Development was a high level tool. A tool used by experts to design a better future, a future that provided sustainable and equal opportunity. Meeting with the DSIL (Design for Social Innovation and Leadership) team I realised how limited my thinking was. If you want to design and shape the world we live in you need to work with people and communities that can collaborate and co-design with you. These are the concepts of Human Centred Design (HCD); HCD empowers the design process to be sustainable and inclusive. This in itself transforms the design to deliver a more sustainable, inclusive and practical solution. Meeting the different organisation that apply HCD as a core value was inspiring, working with the community led to a creative energy fuelled by passion and purpose. The application of HCD didn’t stop with the organisation we met but was central to DSIL. The structure of the programme was founded with the HCD principle and enabled us to build up a genuine and inclusive community.

Courtney Laurence, founder of DSIL, had created a flexible and fluid organisation that adapted the content and structure of the course to the design community. Courtney didn’t just encourage HCD but applied it directly into the development of DSIL, building up the community with the community and providing us with the opportunity to shape the future of DSIL. Throughout the courses decisions were made together built around continual feedback. The small things came together beautifully and enabled a programme that worked for everyone in the community. This was present throughout the course and from day one we all sat down together and discussed what we wanted the community to look like. At the heart of the community experience was the importance of each member and the insight they could bring to the group.

At the heart of this design environment was Katie Grennier, DSIL Field Immersion Co-Lead, Katie brought energy to the group and provided a platform for inclusive design. DSIL built up this platform through liberating structures, creating shared values and purpose within the group; we were encouraged to share and work together through challenges. Liberating structures encouraged individuality and humanity bringing a share sense of respect and understanding into the community. This was led by a democratic design process, in which we valued each other’s skills and collaborated with purpose using a range of colourful post it notes! DSIL was a liberating environment in which I could learn more about design and my identity as a designer.

The DSIL team all brought different skill sets and perspective to the group and enable us to explore and research a broad range of topics. More importantly they all had experience in the field and were able to share their own personal journey with us and the challenges they had overcome. One of the highlights of the course was the story telling evening in which we shared are own journey and the projects we were working on. It was a pleasure to hear about the passion within the DSIL community; a passion to design, solve problems and make a genuine difference. During the field course we met with amazing organizations which strive to serve their community and deliver sustainable value. DSIL was one of these organisations and has inspired me in developing EDSI and promoting the values of HCD.

Why not start you own journey into the world of Design and Social Impact and apply for DSIL 2015.


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