INFRA: Platforms for social innovation

What infrastructures are needed to enable bottom-up, edge-in social innovation? And how do we design them? Doors of Perception 8 is about these two questions.

Doors is a worldwide design and innovation network whose aim is to learn how to design services, some of them enabled by information technology, that meet basic needs in new ways. Every two years or so, the network meets to share the results of its work with citizens, education, industry and professionals.

If you have not been to a Doors event before, check out:

Our latest global meeting, Doors of Perception 8 (Doors 8) is a five day encounter in New Delhi, India. Our week together features a range of activities :

- plenary think-piece presentations (Monday and Tuesday);
- Project Clinics and workshops (Wednesday and Friday);
- one-to-one conversations (every day);
- encounters and exchanges in the city and around.

Why should you come?

When we surveyed the 1,000 delagetes who came to Doors 7 on “Flow”, the answers to two questions, in particular, stood out:

“Did you take away any insights that will inspire your work?”

  • No, alas, none: 3%

  • Yes, one at least: 43%

  • Yes, more than one: 54%

“How many people are you happy to have met at Doors?”

  • Zero: 8%

  • 1-4:  54%

  • 5-10: 29%

  • More than 10 people: 9%

The story so far

Doors 8 is the latest event in a series. At Doors East 1 (in Ahmedabad, in 2000) we looked at the design of services enabled by the internet in a South Asia context, and discussed the relationships between information technology, development , and environmental sustainability.

At Doors 7 on “Flow” (November 2000 in Amsterdam) we explored the design challenge of pervasive computing, and discussed the impact of complex systems on tomorrow’s services and situations.

At Doors East 2 (Bangalore, 2003) our theme was design and local knowledge, with an emphasis on mapping local knowledge, location-based information services, and new business models to pay for them

Doors 8 and “Infra”

The theme of Doors 8 (New Delhi March 2005) is”Infra”. The word is short for infrastructure – but infrastructure of a new kind. Our aim is to shift the policy and business agenda away from top-down, technology-push innovation. We want to find out what platforms are needed to enable bottom-up social innovation – and how to design them

Anti-Social Behaviour

We will try not to make Doors 8 too proper and polite. We are aware that social innovation sounds worthy, but dull. We will keep space and time free for creative genius with no obvious social purpose; for politically-incorrect statements; and for pure serendipity - encounters that we simply don’t design in advance.

Why India?

Doors 8 is not about aid or development in the traditional sense. It’s about collaborative value creation among peers. Although their contexts differ dramatically, both Europe and South Asia face the same innovation dilemma: in order to innovate successfully, we need find out the emerging needs to which new technology might be an answer.

India in particular has a lot to teach us about shared-use models of communication, and new ways of using - and paying for - devices and networks.

The industrial revolution was launched in part by knowledge about textile production brought from India to Europe. We’re confident the same can happen with knowledge about daily-life services brought from India, today.

If, as we strongly believe, tech-push is over as a driver of innovation, then a new model of innovation is needed if we are to find ways to exploit the broadband communications, smart materials, wearable computing, pervasive computing, and connected appliances, that we’re unleashing upon the world.

India is a world-class incubator of new business models. The “Public Call Office” concept enabled hundreds of millions of people to gain telephone access, within a few years. What’s coming next?

Above all, people in South Asia are still respected as a value - not only as a cost, as they tend to be in the north. Tomorrow’s services need to involve people more, not less, than they do today and India, with one fifth of the world’s population, is an ideal place to explore what it might mean to design services that use people more, not less.

The take-away

Doors 8 is about next-generation service and product concepts. You will leave with ideas for new services, and many of the connections and capabilities you will need to implement them.

  • “Doors of Perception is invaluable. It stimulates me to question everything, assume nothing. It also introduces me to people and points of view I would never otherwise come across. There is nothing else like it in the world”.
    Rita Sue Siegel, USA

  • “Doors is crucial to human development because it adds wind to tiny fires in the imaginations of attending designers”
    Susan Bresnihan, Australia

  • “Doors of Perception really is THE conference if you want to innovate. It’s a very intense and inspiring happening and you always bring home new ideas”.
    Margot Lagendijk, The Netherlands

  • “Doors to me is inspiration”
    Nick Leon, designer, London

  • “One of those networks of people that it is important to know and know about”
    Lucy Kimbell, research fellow, Oxford University

  • For Charles Leadbeater, Tony Blair’s favouirite futurist, and author of Living On Thin Air, our invitation to Doors East was “probably the most interesting invitation I’ve had in ten years”.

We look forward to meeting with you in New Delhi next March.

John Thackara and the Doors Team