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The Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Lab is hosted by the School of Arts and Communication (K3) at Malmö University. The Lab focuses on how design can be used to explore and raise discussions about societal challenges. It does so both through research projects and teaching activities.

The Lab is part of the international DESIS network that includes design schools from all over the world engaging with questions of social and environmental sustainability in their research and teaching activities.


See all DESIS Lab news on the K3 blog


The Lab is engaged both in research and teaching activities. When it comes to research, the focus is mainly on exploring the intersection of participatory design, sustainability, and social innovation. Through a design-practice based approach researchers have in the past ten years been engaging with different actors to design and explore possible alternative futures in relation to sustainable living. Some of the key focus areas are participatory innovation and co-production in the public sector, alternative economies and production, and cross-sector collaborations.

Research activities are continuously in dialogue with and engaging students from courses and programs at K3. Some of the courses are: 

Students from the free standing course in 2018 presented their project on A Design Thing:

Previous and current research projects

  • 2018- ongoing: Collaborative Future Making. A transdisciplinary research network that aims at to envision, elaborate and prototype multiple, inclusive, and sustainable futures, as well as to develop forms and methods for how these alternative futures can be discussed and debated. Read more at medea.mah.se.

  • 2018: How to design the future of government? EU Policy Lab collaborates with six design schools to ideate and prototype future models of how participation might look like and how public services might be delivered. Read more at blogs.ec.europa.eu.

  • 2018: Innovation Lab for new waste services. A pre-study about the creation of a lab for the  development of waste services that focus on citizens’ engagement. Together with Malmö waste municipal organization (Va Syd) and Research institute of Sweden (RI.SE). Read more about ILA
  • 2018-2019: Mistra Urban Futures. South Sweden Local Interaction Platform. The platform promotes and harnesses participatory research for sustainable urban development in and beyond the region, under three themes: urban ecosystem services, migration and urban development, and sustainable neighbourhood development. Read more at mistraurbanfutures.org.
  • 2018-2021: Value Sensitive Design in Higher Education (VaSE). The VaSE project aims to provide teachers with resources needed to effectively educate their students to reflectively consider and intentionally work with values in their designs. Read more at vase.mau.se.

  • 2018- ongoing: +PLUS – The Meaning and Production of Value in Building Sustainable Environments. A research initiation project gathering a broad group of scholars for a joint inquiry into the UN Sustainability Goals, addressing incongruences in the meaning, production and foundations of value.

  • 2014– ongoing: ReTuren, an upcycling station. A new service to explore waste handling and sustainability from a holistic perspective. Read more at malmo.se.

  • 2013–ongoing: Malmö Innovation Arena. An Urban Lab driven by the City of Malmö, engaging actors across sectors to address societal challenges in the city of Malmö. Read more at malmo.se.

  • 2014–2017: Urb@Exp. Urban Governance by Experiments. An Urban Europe-funded project focusing on Urban Labs and experimentation in cities as a means to establish new forms of governance.

  • 2012–2017: Living Archives: Enhancing the role of the public archive by performing memory, open data access, and participatory design is a research project funded by the Swedish Research Council. The project analyzes and prototypes how digital archives for cultural heritage can become social resources, how they can facilitate social change, create cultural awareness and collective collaboration. See the Living Archives website.

  • 2011-2017: Architecture in Effect – Rethinking the Social in Architecture. A national research program gathering a large number of researchers within the fields of architecture, design and urban sociology  (2011-2017). Read more at architectureineffect.se.
  • 2011-2014: Urban Transition Øresund. An EU Inter-Reg IV Project including the work package GröntSpel, focusing on trans-disciplinary forms of collaboration through learning game design schemes. Read more about Urban Transition Øresund
  • 2009–2012: Malmö New Media, European Structural Funds. This project has been supporting the establishment of Malmö Living Labs leading to a number of experiments such as the releasing of the first Scandinavian movie under a Creative Commons license on the Pirate Bay, the setting up of the first Swedish makerspace, and the co-design of a social innovation incubator for the city of Malmö. See Living Labs Fabriken, The Neighbourhood, and The Stage.


Anna Seravalli: Coordinator

Per-Anders Hillgren

Maria Hellström Reimer

Per Linde

Elisabet M. Nilsson

Alicia Smedberg

Recent publications

Agger Eriksen, M., Hellström Reimer, M. and Toftager Larsen, M. (2019) Games are Political: Challenging Municipal Urban Planning Practices For Sustainable Development and Mutual Learning Through Game Co-designing. In Brokovic Dodig, M. and Groat, L. Routledge Companion for Games in Architecture and Urban Planning: Tools for design, teaching, and research. London and New York: Routledge.

Hellström Reimer, M. (2018) "Going Whole Hog – Merging Ecobranding and Park Politics in the Smart City". In Gromark S., van Toorn R. and Mack J. (eds.) Rethinking the Social in Architecture. Barcelona and New York: Actar.

Seravalli A. (2018) Infrastructuring for urban commons over time: learning from two cases. Proceedings of the 15th Participatory Design Conference: Full Papers; 15th Participatory Design Conference, 11, ACM, ISSN 978-1-4503-6371-6

Hillgren, P. A. (2017). Democratizing the City. Democratic configurations and imagination. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 29(2), 5.

Hellström Reimer, M. (2017) "Playing the Green Card: The Commodifying Fiction of a Derivative Jardin-Forêtin architecture and Culture, Vol. 5 2017, special issue Solids and Flows: Architecture and Capitalism, 279-295.

Scholl, C., Agger Eriksen, M., Baerten, N., Clark, E., Drage, T., Essebo, M., Hillgren, P-A, Hoeflehner, T., de Kraker, J., Rijkens-Klomp, N., Seravalli, A., Wachtmeister, A., Wlasak, P.(2017) Guidelines for Urban Labs. URB@exp

Seravalli, A., Agger Eriksen, M., Hillgren, P.-A. (2017) "Co-Design in co-production processes: jointly articulating and appropriating infrastructuring and commoning with civil servants" CoDesign: International Co-Design Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts;3, 187-201

Seravalli, A., Agger-Eriksen, M. (2017) Beyond collaborative services: Service design for sharing and collaboration as a matter of commons and infrastructuring.  In Sangiorgi, D. and Prendiville A. (eds) Designing for Service: Key Issues and New Directions, Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781474250139, URL

Hillgren, P. A., Seravalli, A., & Eriksen, M. A. (2016). "Counter-hegemonic practices; dynamic interplay between agonism, commoning and strategic design." Strategic Design Research Journal, 9(2), 89.

Hellström Reimer, M.(2016) “Acting Out Kicking Back”. In The Journal of Design Strategies, Vol 8 (1), 2016, pp. 14-22.

Hellström Reimer, M. (2016) “Cut, Make and Trim: Fast Fashion Urbanism in the Residues of Rana Plaza”. In Frichot, Gabrielsson, Metzger (eds.) Deleuze and the City. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 161-177.

Seravalli, A., Hillgren, P. A., & Agger-Eriksen, M. (2015, November). Co-designing collaborative forms for urban commons: using the notions of commoning and agonism to navigate the practicalities and political aspects of collaboration. In 1st Thematic IASC Conference on Urban Commons, Bologna, November (pp. 7-9).

Emilson, A. (2015). "Design in the space between stories: design for social innovation and sustainability – from responding to societal challenges to preparing for societal collapse." PhD diss., Malmö University.

Ehn, P., Nilsson, E. M., & Topgaard, R. (Eds.) (2014). Making Futures: Marginal Notes on Innovation, Design, and Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Last updated by Amanda Malmquist