Socially connected cities by design: a design toolkit for evaluating social impact

Jen Ballie (Lead / Corresponding author), Fraser Bruce, Stephen McGowan, Lee Johnstone

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The UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development acknowledges the role of creativity and cultural diversity in reconciling economic progress and social inclusion. Social innovation leads to social change and emanates from people's everyday interactions, reshaping the ways in which communities deal with social, economic, or environmental challenges. Co-production and community-led consultation have emerged as ways of working in partnership to inform and improve the delivery of public services. This positional paper is exploratory in how design led innovation can support the evaluation of community led projects which in turn lead to policy changes that endorse and support cultural and creative regeneration strategies. Adopting a Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology, workshops were facilitated to scope the requirements for the development of a pilot design-led toolkit for social innovation interventions underpinned by an evaluation model for impact. Findings from the research highlight opportunities for building capability and capacity in place-based knowledge exchange partnerships with community stakeholders to support participatory place-making in cities. The paper closes with recommendations for the adoption of design-led tools to embed creative practice in local and regional policymaking to help move from critique to creation, techniques that encourage deep collaboration and a process that enables ideas to grow in real-life settings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalDMI: Journal
Issue number1
Early online dateOct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


  • social innovation
  • design
  • design thinking
  • design futures


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