Measuring Social Values of Design in the Commercial Sector

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: Design

Abstract

CSR is seen by many as a self-regulation mechanism whereby businesses identify their impact on society and ensure that they comply with social standards, e.g. human rights. CSR is increasingly regarded as a crucial aspect of economic competitiveness, which can encourage product/service uptake on aspects beyond functionality and price sensitivity. While CSR takes an important role in brands, design has the potential to be a critical aspect of CSR, broadening activities from corporate sponsorship and certification to the incorporation of CSR principles throughout product/service development.

The widely-held belief that buying ethical products is a more effective way of tackling global poverty than giving to charity reflects strong commercial benefits, by ensuring sufficient social values in product offerings, enabling businesses to respond to CSR imperatives. However, most businesses do not yet use design effectively in CSR practices, which they interpret as supporting charities, and invest in design only with apparent benefits, e.g. promotional design. Moreover, the social return of design is implicitly quantified, and existing financial appraising tools for Return on Investment and social impact assessment are unsuitable for measuring social values generated through design. As a result, companies find it difficult to consider design as one of the tools to address CSR requirements and integrate social values into their mainstream products and services. The situation is worse for SMEs, which are less able to access and use good design, thereby limiting their potential for growth and innovation while larger firms are twice as likely to see design as integral to their operations. There is an urgent need to develop a toolkit for measuring social return of design, which will complement existing tools by explicitly identifying the social impact of non-financial investments in order to (i) make UK companies effective users of design in CSR practices and (ii) help to make UK companies leading ethical enterprises in the global market. The key question, then, is how to objectively quantify social values created by design.

We believe developing the toolkit will enable design disciplines to trace social values created through design during the new product/service development process, similar to the calculation of the carbon footprint throughout the product lifecycle. As a pilot study of the research idea, this project aims to understand the social value of design, especially in CSR practices, and explore contextual issues, value and means of measuring social impact of design, providing an underpinning theory and underlying knowledge to develop the tool for measuring the social values of design. The project will deliver following objectives:
OB 1. To review existing theories of the social value of design, with particular reference to the social impact of CSR practices.
OB 2. To identify the role(s) of design in relation to social value/responsibility and the critical notion of design value.
OB 3. To examine current social impact assessment tools to understand the limitations of existing approaches.
OB 4. To explore the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool.

Potential stakeholders include research partners from non-profit design organisations, design academics, design professionals, and SMEs invited to participate in the project. In-depth desktop research and two interdisciplinary workshops will be conducted to achieve the objectives. An open knowledge-sharing platform and open discussion forum will be created, as an online repository of ongoing research results and debates, and the two workshops will serve as dissemination and knowledge-sharing strategies. The developed knowledge will also be disseminated by support of the not-for-profit organisations' networks, creating journal/conference papers and introducing it to design students at Brunel and CMU for educational purposes.

Planned Impact

The project will provide insight into the existing state of knowledge about the social values of design, with particular reference to the social impact of CSR practices - especially where they are taken into consideration during the new product/service processes - and the limitations of existing approaches of current social impact assessment tools. The research will also generate knowledge about the role(s) of design in relation to social value and responsibility and the critical notion of design value and, finally, will explore issues relating to the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool. The project will then have an impact on the following beneficiaries:
- SMEs are regarded as a 'direct beneficiary' of the project. Since many companies still fail to see design as a vital integral tool to address CSR requirements and integrate social values into their mainstream products/services, this research will enable businesses to understand the role(s) and values of design in CSR practices, resulting in enhancing design-led innovation in organisations. The project will also impact on improving business performance and competitiveness through (i) improving CSR capability by using design effectively and (ii) developing creative outputs by systematically improving social values in product/service design. The project outcomes and its future researches - through interdisciplinary collaboration between design and business innovation disciplines - would benefit SMEs' performance directly by providing guidelines for SMEs to change their perception of design and improve their economic competitiveness by using design for CSR practices.
- Design professionals: designers and design consultancies will be 'direct users' of the research outcomes. SMEs will benefit directly from the research project outcomes but design professionals are the key activity groups in the whole design process. They must therefore have a clear understanding of the impact of their decisions and to create product/services that make a positive difference to society and individuals. The project outcome will thus help design professionals to improve their capabilities, knowledge and skills of using design for CSR practices, by enabling them to identify and evaluate social values generated through the design development process, and justify design investment from the social perspective. The project will also influence design consultancies, helping them to expand and grow their businesses.
- The UK economy will also benefit from this project, which will foster the UK's economic competitiveness by enabling UK businesses to make effective use of design in CSR practices, which could help put UK businesses at the forefront of exciting new developments and secure a leading position in the global market as ethical enterprises. The project will contribute toward public policies by providing insight into current CSR activities in SMEs in the UK.
- The wider UK society will also benefit from the project. Integrating social values into products/services means designers and businesses must address social requirements, including the health and wellbeing of the community, local development, and job creation. By encouraging designers and businesses to continually consider and improve their social credential, social issues will be positively addressed by the private sector. This may benefit the wider general public and support the UK government in tackling social issues, especially in the current climate of an increasingly limited public budget. Finally, the clear and unambiguous definition of the relationship of design to Social Responsibility may benefit policy-makers and local/regional/national governments by assisting them in developing strategies of design-related programmes, e.g. urban regeneration and social housing.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Increase awareness of social value of design in organisations in the commercial sector; improve understanding of the importance of design in CSR activities; address the social values in design
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Academic and Industrial partners for SVOD 
Organisation British Industrial Design Association (BIDA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution N/A
Collaborator Contribution • Help identify and contact suitable experts for the workshops • Allow access to all entries of their data including website • Help disseminate the new knowledge and engage with wider audiences which are parts of the pathways to impact
Impact Identify the role(s) of design in CSR and Society and explore the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool, that lead to develop online materials including the project report available to the public audiences.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Academic and Industrial partners for SVOD 
Organisation Cardiff Metropolitan University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution N/A
Collaborator Contribution • Help identify and contact suitable experts for the workshops • Allow access to all entries of their data including website • Help disseminate the new knowledge and engage with wider audiences which are parts of the pathways to impact
Impact Identify the role(s) of design in CSR and Society and explore the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool, that lead to develop online materials including the project report available to the public audiences.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Academic and Industrial partners for SVOD 
Organisation Design Management Europe Award
Country European Union (EU) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution N/A
Collaborator Contribution • Help identify and contact suitable experts for the workshops • Allow access to all entries of their data including website • Help disseminate the new knowledge and engage with wider audiences which are parts of the pathways to impact
Impact Identify the role(s) of design in CSR and Society and explore the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool, that lead to develop online materials including the project report available to the public audiences.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Academic and Industrial partners for SVOD 
Organisation DesignPlus
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution N/A
Collaborator Contribution • Help identify and contact suitable experts for the workshops • Allow access to all entries of their data including website • Help disseminate the new knowledge and engage with wider audiences which are parts of the pathways to impact
Impact Identify the role(s) of design in CSR and Society and explore the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool, that lead to develop online materials including the project report available to the public audiences.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Design Workshop for MA Design Students 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 38 Design Masters students attended for the Social value of design workshop aiming for helping the students understand the role/value of design in creating social value and its relationships. Most students were inspired by the activity resulting in enhancing their awareness and conducting dissertations in the related areas, e.g. design for CSR, design for social impact, etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Design workshop with MA Design students in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Introducing the research project and running a workshop on the subject area with three key activities: understanding, investigating and presenting. 55 students and two academics attended to the workshop. The participants reported that it was a great opportunity to develop understanding and knowledge of design for social value creation and increase their interest in the subject area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Design workshop with MA design students in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Introduced the project and run a workshop with three sessions, supported by one advisor in the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Exploratory workshop 1 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Identify social value of design and role of design in CSR with design practitioners which leads to develop online materials available to the public audiences.

Improve understanding of design contribution to society and impact on CSR practices among design practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.socialvaluesofdesign.com
 
Description Exploratory workshop 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Examine current social impact assessment tools to understand the limitations of existing approaches and explore the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool, that lead to develop online materials available to the public audiences.

Improve understanding of the role(s) of design in CSR practices and society and enhance awareness of the importance of measuring social values of design.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.socialvaluesofdesign.com
 
Description International seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact To disseminate the knowledge effectively, an international seminar event was taken place on the 19th March 2015 with around 120 design/brand/innovation professional practitioners. The roles of design in social design and CSR programme development were thoroughly discussed. Most attendees said the event was very useful to understand the meaning of social value and relationship between design and social impact. The seminar organiser reported that the seminar influenced a lot to increase the participants' interest in social innovation and social design. They also asked to send copies of the project report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Interviews with SMEs 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Explore how companies perceive their social impact and the influence that consideration of social issues has on their design activities, which lead to develop a project report available to the public audiences.

Improve understanding of the role(s) of design in CSR practices and society and enhance awareness of the importance of measuring social values of design.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.socialvaluesofdesign.com
 
Description Keynote speech 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Understand consumer attitudes to corporate social value, explore where design has been a contributor to such social value and discuss some conflicting arguments: i) shifting boundaries - where do we draw the boundary around the social impact of products or services, ii) narrative fallacy - our attraction to simple and appealing stories which does not necessarily achieve the expected social impact, and iii) trade offs -social value creation at the expense of another social detriment. These issues led further discussions on the social impact of design during the break. Presentation slides for the speech has been produced and shared with the public and the speech was video-recorded by the conference organiser and they said it will also be shared with the public audiences.

Improve understanding of the role(s) of design in both private and public sectors and enhance awareness of the complex issues of measuring social values of design. After my speech, many audiences including academic staff at HE institutions expressed their interest in the project and asked to send the project report. Some design professionals are willing to involve in the future research project in this area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://ucduk.org/events/ucd2014-conference/
 
Description Measuring Social Value of Design Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact As part of dissemination strategy and to further understand people's perception about and understanding the role of design in creating social values, a Measuring SVOD (Social Value of Design) workshop was taken place on the 17th March 2015 with 30 Design students at UNIST in South Korea. The workshop had two sessions: (i) to discuss the meaning of social value by sharing ideas of what they think the item they have brought to the workshop has social value and what types of social value it has and (ii) to map out the products/services/brands in terms of (a) social value and design input and (b) social value and commercial value, considering what they agree or disagree with. Group presentations were made after the discussions. Most students said that the workshop provided a very good opportunity for them to think deeply about the role and value of design in social impact and also to gain the knowledge about the social values of design, with particular reference to the social impact of CSR practices. As a result, the workshop organiser reported that students' interests in the social innovation area has been increased.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description SVOD (Social Value of Design) workshop for Indian professors 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Nine professors from three Indian universities took part in the Social Value of Design workshop. The event was designed to help the delegates improve their teaching skills and develop their knowledge in social innovation and strategic design, which should be integrated into their teaching. The delegates engaged very well in all activities required and made very thorough discussions which enabled them to increase interests in the social innovation and different approaches to student interaction.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description SVOD workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact As part of dissemination strategy and to further understand people's perception about and understanding the role of design in creating social values, a SVOD (Social Value of Design) workshop was taken place on the 22nd January 2016 with 52 MA Design and Branding students at Brunel University. The workshop had two sessions: (i) to discuss the meaning of social value by sharing ideas of what they think the item they have brought to the workshop has social value and what types of social value it has and (ii) to map out the products/services/brands in terms of (a) social value and design input and (b) social value and commercial value, considering what they agree or disagree with. Group presentations were made after the discussions. Most students said that the workshop provided a very good opportunity for them to think deeply about the role and value of design in social impact and also to gain the knowledge about the social values of design, with particular reference to the social impact of CSR practices. As a result, many students (about 7) have chosen their dissertation topics in the fields of social innovation and CSR practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact An international seminar was taken place on the 17th March 2015 for around 50 postgraduate students including PhDs and 7 academics at Sunkyunkwan University in South Korea as part of disseminating the knowledge developed from the project. Most participants appreciated the seminar as they believed that they gained the underpinning knowledge about the values of design and its impact on society and developed their research interests in social impact of design and corporate social responsibility. Once of academic attendees form other design institute suggested that I deliver a lecture to their student and I accepted his offer.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Service design workshop with South Korean Students in Design 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Presented the key findings of the SVOD project and run an half-day workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Social Design Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact An international seminar was taken place on the 18th March 2015 for around 60 undergraduate students and 3 academics at SADI (Samsung Art and Design Institute) to disseminate the knowledge developed from the SVOD project. Most participants appreciated the seminar as they believed that they gained the underpinning knowledge about the values of design and its impact on society and developed their research interests in social impact of design and CSR impact in socitey.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Social Value of Design workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact SVOD (Social Value of Design) workshop was taken place on the 9th Dec. 2016 with 49 MA Design and Branding students at Brunel University and two practitioners. Most participants said that the workshop provided a very good opportunity for them to think deeply about the role and value of design in social impact and also to gain the knowledge about the social values of design, with particular reference to the social impact of CSR practices. As a result, some students (about 5) have chosen their dissertation topics in the fields of social innovation and CSR practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description University Visit (Sungshin University, South Korea) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact An international seminar was taken place on the 16th Dec 2016 for around 20 undergraduate students and 23 academics at Sungshin University to disseminate the knowledge developed from the SVOD project. Most participants appreciated the seminar as they believed that they gained the underpinning knowledge about the values of design and its impact on society and developed their research interests in social impact of design and CSR impact in socitey.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshop 1 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Identify social value of design and role of design in in relation to social value/responsibility and the critical notion of design value which leads to develop online materials available to the public audiences.

Improve understanding of design contribution to society and impact on CSR practices among design practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.socialvaluesofdesign.com
 
Description Workshop 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Examine current social impact assessment tools to understand the limitations of existing approaches and explore the potential opportunities and benefits of developing the impact measurement tool, that lead to develop online materials available to the public audiences.

Improve understanding of the role(s) of design in CSR practices and society and enhance awareness of the importance of measuring social values of design. After the workshop, I was invited to UCD (User Centred Design) 2014 conference held in London, October 2014, to give a keynote speech on 'the role of design to make a good society'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.socialvaluesofdesign.com