Recent decades have seen a significant shift in how profound and intractable problems such as poverty, disease, violence or environmental deterioration are handled. While such problems have traditionally been handled through national social and spatial policies in European welfare states such as Sweden, there has been a substantial redistribution to the market, regions and communities. This is embodied in the term ‘social innovation’, which marks a critical shift in how, where, and by whom societal problems are handled. Practices of social innovation involve a reconfiguration of relations between the state and citizens, relations that are may be (co-)produced in ways that are regionally, socially, and spatially specific. This paper (in the short form of ‘preliminary findings’) explores the ‘how’ of social innovation through three case studies concerning urban resources issues such as food, water, waste and land use. Building on arguments that design has become central to the (co-)production of social innovation, I examine the role of designers and design artifacts in framing and staging (co-)production within households, neighborhoods and civic arenas. Locating social innovation as the reconfiguration of society from within, I discuss these as examples through which wider social practices and systems, beliefs and authority, may be profoundly altered.
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