Design, When Everybody Designs- An Evening talk and dinner on Design for Social Innovation with Ezio Manzini in Brussels on May 8,19:00

Earlier this year Edgeryders initiated an unusual collaboration with Ezio Manzini, a leading thinker in design for sustainability. The ways Edgeryders work and live today offer many insights into the futures of design for social change in a connected world in transition toward sustainability. The world we inhabit is one in which everybody constantly has to design and redesign their existence, whether they wish to or not. It is also a world in which many of these individual and collective projects are starting to converge and give rise to wider social changes. What is the role of design experts in such a world in which everybody designs? This is the subject of Ezio’s new book, hot off the MIT Press.

On Friday May 8 at 19:00 Ezio Manzini will do a short talk introducing design for social innovation, “the most dynamic field of action for both expert and non-expert designers in the coming decades”. We will also explore how some of the principles presented by Ezio are being implemented in experimental new initiatives that achieve strategic objectives and capture the public imagination.

The presentation will take place in our new homebase in Brussels in the context of an informal dinner where we enjoy a nice, relaxed evening with old and new friends.

Hosts: Nadia EL-ImamAlberto Cottica and you?

When: 19:00, Friday 8/5

Where: Brussels. Exact location is sent to registered participants.

Price: 26 Euros/person (Cost of food and drink- usually we cook ourselves but since we are in the middle of a move, we are ordering catering this time).

RSVP by 22/4: Please write to to let us know if you wish to join us and wait for written confirmation. It is not ok to just show up at this event without registration as number of spaces is limited to 16 and we need to plan food etc.

Date: 2015-05-08 17:00:00 - 2015-05-08 20:00:00, Europe/Brussels Time.

Notes from the conversation

The Dark Side of social innovation

  • Ezio pointed out that the social innovation space can (and did) spawn some large scale entities that are at a risk of going over to the dark side, and wondered what can be done about it.
  • Wim remarked that there might be a way to set up an interaction environment that is psychologically sound, and it enables people to function at their best. In such an environment, perhaps, initiatives and projects would not go over to the dark side!
  • Julia said that psychological biases are well documented; raising the awareness of what they are and do might help us make better decisions, both individually and collectively. I believe she was referring to Kahneman-Tversky behavioral economics stuff, because she mentioned the System 1/System 2 model. 
  • Kira offered a praise of failure, and how sharing your experience of failure can help everyone involved to get better at what we do. That might be another safeguard against the dark side.
  • Thomas told us about the Abilene model to corroborate Julia's point, and had a spectacular failure to offer – one involving flying whales, a guy who jumped the Berlin wall heading East and the London Olympics.
  • Johannes expressed optimism that complex systems can, indeed, be designed. They will still fail, because that is what systems do, but you will have redundancies and backups and safeguards, and a lot of error-friendliness in general.
  • Ezio added that design does not need power of prediction to function: even if you do not know how it will all end, as a designer you still can make moves that, all other things being equal, will inject resilience, stability, redundancy etc. into the system.
  • Fabrizio had another safeguard to throw into the mix: support for grassroots, decentralized and decentralist social innovation. An important part of this support is to insist systems stay open, and data in particular are stewarded as a public good. He, however, was skeptical that you can actually design complex systems.


  • Nadia praised the hacker scene and their playful, subversive mentality. It applies to almost anything.
  • Thomas offered some examples of subverted initiatives (Coderdojo in 2060 Baghdad, a rough neighborhood of Antwerp; and a new model of book club). He claimed that hacking does not have a moral polarity per se: people can and do hack system for good, for bad and for the hell of it.
  • Lionel proposed that hacking is a way for hackers as a (very loose) category and for certain categories of hackers to make a power grab. This might not be so bad because powerful hackers tend not to be the same people as powerful non-hackers, so the net result is that some people have one kind of power, and other people have another kind of power, and this way there are more people around with at least some kind of power.
  • Ezio observed that hackers do the same thing as creatives always did, but they have their own rhetoric and tribal culture. 
  • Thomas said that the cultural impulse to subvert can go to far and backfire. He thinks this is what happened with Pirate Party, which is full of hackers, and every time someone builds some structure others make a point of destroying it.