Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • understand how design can facilitate social change in different socio-techno-economic settings;
  • critically assess potentials and pitfalls of different strategies to social change in particular contexts;
  • plan projects so that the merits and downsides of different ways, combinations, intensities and resources for fostering change are adequately addressed;
  • assess potentials and pitfalls of different approaches to design for social change.

Credits: 6

Schedule: 23.10.2023 - 05.12.2023

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Sampsa Hyysalo, Goeun Park

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (valid for whole curriculum period):

Language of instruction and studies (applies in this implementation):

Teaching language: English. Languages of study attainment: English


  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Designing for Social Change (DSC) courses provide students basic understanding and competences to build design projects aimed towards social change. The course has a two part structure. 

    1. Theories and key concepts of social change the course provides a selective overview of most design relevant research on what it takes to achieve significant social change. DSC provides basics of core concepts, including sociotechnical systems, path dependence and path creation, sociotechnical couplings and interdependencies, practice change, social worlds and arenas for action, activist and post-capitalist frameworks, policy issues and economic drivers.
    2. Collaborative design for social change (Hyysalo): collaborative design extending design from professionals to impacted peoples and relevant stakeholders is often a prerequisite for fostering social change. The interests, resources, legitimacy and enthusiasm of these peoples need to be met for a change initiative to have a chance to succeed. This is very difficult for designers to approximate these in their studio alone. DSC features a set of hands-on exercises and associated learning materials on key aspects of planning and running different types of collaborative design in different settings. Successful design collaboration requires analyzing the big picture contexts and working from there to the nitty gritty details of designing for collaboration ( and back again). The student groups use these learning to device a plan for use (or non use) of collaborative design as part of their extended project brief and, if practicable, also enact some of the planned actions. 

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Clear identification of and rigorous enquiry into issues and challenges within a self-defined project topic within a given socio-techno-economic setting. Development of a creative strategy for a design activist intervention within that project topic, including a reasoned account of the resources and futher research required. Critical evaluation of that creative strategy against other possibilities. Clear articulation of the development, results of the enquiry and reflection on it through a structured, illustrated report that is fully referenced. Attendance and participation in at least 80% of programmed lectures, workshops, seminars or field visits and successful completion of all teaching assignments and exercises within deadlines given.

  • valid for whole curriculum period:

     6 cr = 162 hrs. Course will be taught on a hybrid mode.

    Lectures, in-class discussions and in-class work with tutoring: 70 h

    Independent literature study: 30h

    Work in project assignment in teams, preparing a presentation and a presenting: 42h

    Personal reflection: 19h

    Course evaluation: 1h


Substitutes for Courses
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    7 Affordable and Clean Energy

    9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

    10 Reduced Inequality

    11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

    12 Responsible Production and Consumption

    13 Climate Action


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Teaching Language : English

    Teaching Period : 2022-2023 Autumn II
    2023-2024 Autumn II

    Enrollment :

    Registration in Sisu. Minimum number of students 10, maximum number of students 30.  Priority is given to students in the Collaborative and Industrial Design major.

    Priority order:

    1. CoID and CS master students

    2. Doctoral students

    3. Other Aalto master students including exchange students