IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN | Interview with Antonio Scarponi

July, 2018 – As part of the IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGSs and Societal Challenges SDGs Applied Design Reserach Program co-produced by SocialFare | Center for Social Innovation Italy and ELISAVA – Barcelona School of Design and EngineeringArianna Mazzeo, Director of the MasterLab in Service Design Systems of ELISAVA, interviewed Antonio Scarponi after the Zurich Open Talk: 

IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGSs and Societal Challenges
SDGs Applied Design Reserach Program
[read more]

Antonio Scarponi describes himself as an architect who thinks like a designer, draws like an artist, dreams like a poet. To “think”, to “draw” and to “dream” are the three aspects that characterize his work.

Founder of the Zurich-based office Conceptual Devices, Antonio Scarponi studied architecture at Cooper Union, New York and at IUAV, Venice, from which he holds a PhD in urban design.

He has been teaching Urban Design at IUAV, Venice, Space design in KTH, Stockholm, Design in NABA, Milano and Interaction Design at the Zurich University of the Arts where he is currently developing an interdisciplinary program around Arts and Space. He is the co-founder of TANTOOO, a fairytale beanbag (originally designed for his daughter) and the author of ELIOOO, a manual to turn consumers into the manufactures of an idea and IKEA into a distributor of supplies for a product that does not exist.

Thinks: Antonio produces what he defines as conceptual devices. Conceptual devices maximize form and impact and imply a systematic understanding of realities in which they allow to “subvert” the given form of relationships between people and people and people and things.

Draws: the act of drawing is for Antonio a raw form of knowledge production that allows not to explore the relationships between objects and people, but to build possible ones.

Dreams: The generative design approach and methodologies designed by Antonio devices, evoke, suggest, allow different forms of society, imagined but plausible. He often describes his work as a network between utopias, an archipelago with the attempt to transform them from islands into peninsulas.



What had the most impact on your life / did you learn from?

I have to say that I do not like the word “impact”. I have the impression that it is not appropriate to describe what we mean by it. Impact is a violent term. I do not want to impact anything, and I do not want to be impacted, so let’s see if we can find another word maybe more appropriate. At least for me.

I have spent my childhood and adolescence between long and very crowded hot sand beaches in the spring-summer times, and lonely, isolated, empty hilly vineyards in winter and fall. So, to answer your question, I can say that the beach and the countryside have many things in common that undoubtedly had an impact on me. They are both “palimpsests”. They continuously change over time. They both have their rituality. They both have a rigid tempo. And although they are both wild in opposite senses, they are at the same time two very disciplined environments. These are two specific cultural loci precisely squared within horizontal coordinates: the sea on the east side, the mountains on the west. North up, South down. In short, they are two archetypical landscapes, and they have their own very different but similar cultures. And here I come to my point. Culture does not “impact”. Culture seduces, infiltrate, shift, accompany, convince. It does not impact. Culture is a form of soft power, it does not impact. At least it does not in the physical sense. It impacts the mind, the imagination.

These two dichotomic landscapes I am describing are carrying on their values. They teach you values. Their values shape them. They are the form of their values.


Why Impact Through Design in Zurich?

Design is historically strongly related to “impact”, in its physical sense. Our cities are the result of the relationship between conflicts and desires. Using this dichotomy, one could argue between “impact and seduction” where the impact is (historically) a policy or a form of top-down or paternalistic “imposition”, a norm, while on the other hand nobody knows what the desires that pulse in a city are.

A good friend of mine once told me that Zurich never convey the reformist Zwingli culture from the modern DADA revolution. This cultural dichotomy is exceptionally generative, and it creates diversity in Zurich. So, the Zurich case is more open, and it is much broader than “design”, which culturally is a solution-driven discipline while culture in general – and now I am referring to the arts specifically – is more “generative”. It provides possibilities versus solutions. No one is interested in solutions I think. They are boring. Challenges are open. Solutions are closed. Everyone identifies with challenges not much with readymade solutions. A cultural approach in a city like Zurich (which is one of the most livable cities in the world despite the fact that a coffee costs almost like a meal) enhance the imagination.

Zurich is a place where the future of Europe can be prototyped. So, let’s call it imaginative culture impact. This, I think, is impact through design in a city like Zurich today.

IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN | Interview with Paolo Montemurro

June, 2018 – As part of the IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGSs and Societal Challenges SDGs Applied Design Reserach Program co-produced by SocialFare | Center for Social Innovation Italy and ELISAVA – Barcelona School of Design and EngineeringArianna Mazzeo, Director of the MasterLab in Service Design Systems of ELISAVA, interviewed Paolo Montemurro. 

IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGSs and Societal Challenges
SDGs Applied Design Reserach Program
[read more]


Director of Materahub, project manager of EU funded projects, Paolo Montemurro has been working since 2010 on capacity building actions for the Creative and Cultural sector and on support to young entrepreneurs and startup in the cultural and social sector.

Since 2014, he has worked on cross-fertilization between arts and other sectors of economy, society and culture. The main project tackling this topic has been Break In The Desk, a cooperation initiative among 10 European organizations to develop a methodology to foster innovation in companies and public organizations through the disruptive power of arts and creativity.

Actively involved in the process of candidature and then in the management of “Matera 2019 European Capital of Culture” particularly on the capacity building process for cultural organizations that will develop the artistic and cultural program, he has been working on the topic of internationalization and networking at EU level for the Creative and Cultural sector. In this framework he is working on the project ICCI and, as technical expert, on the project CHIMERA Interreg MED where he is supporting Basilicata Region and Puglia Creative Cluster.

Since 2016, he is the person in charge of bringing Materahub in European networks among which the European Creative Business Network, Creative Business Cup Network, European Creative Hubs Network. In this network, he has worked with EC Science HUB JRC on a pilot project to discover how creative hubs can become places to co-design policies to support youth employment through the Creative and Cultural sector.

In 2018, he has started a new project focused on supporting faculties of arts & humanities on developing new spaces for innovation, entrepreneurship education for students and academic staff, cross-fertilization with companies.


What had most impact on your life?

Break In the Desk project has been the first European project I coordinated as project manager and the first one in which I tried to develop a new methodology and model to support the artistic and cultural sector by proposing a different vision of the role of the artists: innovators inside complex organizations, someone able to discover where resistance is and overcome it promoting feasible solution for all the actors involved.

It has been also the very first direct interaction with the challenges of the creative and cultural sector seen from the perspective of artists and cultural operators, but even from intermediary organizations that should support them.

The project has undoubtedly allowed myself and Materahub to be considered among those who are at the forefront of innovation in the discussion going on in Europe about creative economy, entrepreneurship and arts and cross-fertilization between arts and other sectors of society.

It has been also an opportunity to start thinking at how to innovate the indicators of impact for arts and culture and how to make the impact, which rarely is economic, measurable from the point of view of policy makers.

Tell us about how creativity and culture can generate social value

Break In The Desk is a three years project funded under Erasmus + program. The main objectives of the project were:

  • to support artists, cultural operators and projects in building their sustainability from an economic point of view
  • to train artists on how to become promoters of innovation through their capacity to read reality and the relationships inside complex organizations and scenarios like those offered by companies or public organizations

The project managed to involve in its life over 500 artists from 7 countries in workshops for sustainability, pilot actions, “break in” creative interventions and is now becoming a European network that will keep on promoting the value of arts in impacting society at all level.

Italy saw the first dots of the network with a cooperation that connected all those organizations promoting arts and business (Materahub, Link Campus University, Sineglossa Creative Ground, Innovazione Creeativa, Fusion Art Center) and had the chance to replicate a creative intervention in Ancona, at the harbor with the port authority that asked 25 artists from Italy and the Balkans to work on solution for tourists to make them discover the city of Ancona while waiting for their ferries at the harbor.

The main value of the project is in the capacity of artists to read the internal processes of complex organizations, understanding human relationships that could foster or block innovation. It is not the artistic product of the creative intervention that matters but the process through which the artist is able to guide the organization and the people working in it, discovering themselves and realizing what are the real roots of problems or the potentials for growth.

The future has in store new applications of the methodology to museum, hospitals, schools trying to improve more and more the already existing methodology and tools.

IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN | Interview with Joke Quintens

May, 2018 – As part of the IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGSs and Societal Challenges SDGs Applied Design Reserach Program co-produced by SocialFare | Center for Social Innovation Italy and ELISAVA – Barcelona School of Design and EngineeringArianna Mazzeo, Director of the MasterLab in Service Design Systems of ELISAVA, interviewed Joke Quintens. 

IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGSs and Societal Challenges
SDGs Applied Design Reserach Program
[read more]


Joke Quintens is a master in history and graduated on migration history. From different roles she has built a strong reputation in “making city together”, where everyone – citizens, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, politicians and civil servants – play a role in shaping a city and society together. As a designer and facilitator, Joke is extremely skilled in participatory design. As the former deputy mayor of the city of Genk (Belgium), she was an innovative policy maker in transitions at city level, in the areas of participation, neighbourhood development, sustainable development, environment and equality. For over 20 years, creativity and “working together to move forward” have been a focus in her career, both in the social sector, in policy and in her activities as an social entrepreneur.

Joke Quintens lives and works in Marseille since 2017, a city with a certain scale and 2600 years of experience in migration, diversity and resilience. In Living Lab Moving Marseille she uses the city as a lab to learn, but also to connect people and projects in and with Marseille. In this context she also organizes Urban Field Trips, in which she introduces visitors to this fascinating city with inspiring citymakers and their projects from the bottom-up. Joke Quintens is an experienced and driven “transitioneur”, “matchmaker” and “facilitator”, who likes to share her experiences with the rest of the world.

Joke has three main activities:

Living lab Moving*Marseille: how superdiversity can be an accelerator of transformations in Marseille. This is done by several interventions: a chain of stories from citizens about their roots and “routes”; citizentwinnings of citymakers from Rotterdam and Marseille; matchmaking social innovators in Marseille and beyond; collecting voices from Marseille in stories and inspiring places.

Urban Field Trips: in which visitors can learn from the bottom up initiatives in Marseille and her superdiverse population and visit local initiatives and meet citymakers who are building from the bottom-up their very promising city near the Mediterranean.

Participatory design: designing and facilitating participation and co-creation projects in cities, organizations and companies with a focus on bottom-up participation. This approach gives not only common ground but also better solutions.

Joke is also an inspiring speaker who wants to share her experiences and insights with the world. As a curator she designs and matchmakes for festivals and activities on social and sustainable change.


What had most impact on your life / did you learn from?


Realizing Wetopia exists. Wetopia is a word I invented to explain how we can take action to build our community together. Civilians, activists, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, civil servants, policy maker. When people have little faith in politics, in the top down, it is necessary that we try to reshape our society together. Meanwhile people are already constructing Wetopia everywhere.

When you want transitions to work and systems to change, everybody has to be involved. Not only scientist and policy makers with their administrations. Everybody takes and can take responsibilities to accelerate transitions.

In Wetopia we see new alliances, also without government, al lot of regaining pride and self-esteem and the strength of a superdiverse community as main characteristics.

So let me tell you my personal story to explain what I mean with this:

I am a historian, graduated in migration history and started my career as a community worker in very mixed, but also deprived neighbourhoods in Brussels and Antwerp to strengthen people in their talents, in what they are good at. Then I decided to become a freelancer, an entrepreneur to facilitate organisations and cities in  societal change. I got involved in policymaking, participated at local elections and became the deputy mayor of Genk. I developed from that role a lot of projects together with civil servants, associations, citizens about sustainable urban development in a working class and superdiverse community.

Today I live in Marseille, another superdiverse city, the most African city of Europe and focus on social design as an active citizen and as a professional. I set up an Urban Lab to research how superdiversity can accelerate a city and I organise urban field trips on social innovation from  the bottom up.

And what do we always want, as engaged people? We want impact. We ask ourselves all the time how we can change things for the better. In every role. You can’t do it alone. To me it’s always about building bridges and focus on diversity as a strength. In all these kind of roles: from civil servant to scientist and from citizen to artist, we can make a difference.

Now, after more than 20 years, I decided to be a facilitator and a matchmaker helping people to make this difference.

I try to look at cities and society with different eyes and connect people and organizations who want to change their social and cultural environment for the better.

Choosing Marseille as a platform was a very conscious choice, because Marseille is the ideal laboratory to explore the possibilities of bottom-up initiatives in a superdiverse community. Our living lab Moving*Marseille explores these possibilities and tries to connect people and organizations who contribute to sustainable change.


Why impact through design in Marseille?


I am convinced that Marseille is a very interesting laboratory to research social impact through design and social innovation from the bottom-up. This, in the context of a city with 2600 years of experience with migration, a superdiverse working class population, a rebellious history, lots of social challenges – Marseille is the most unequal city in Europe – and a very active bottom-up community that explores new ways of activism and social change. This practice in a city as Marseille is due to an almost absent government in innovative social and sustainable solutions.

Let me share three examples of social innovation from Marseille that inspire me as Wetopian projects and are also very good examples of social design for societal change, addressing clearly the sustainable development goals.

The first social innovation, accelerating sustainable transformations, is Bernard du Bois. This is an empty temporary and legal occupied building from the national government as a hotspot to accommodate homeless people and to set up a new ecosystem with lots of partners to do this in a different way.

Lab Zéro is the laboratory of social innovations piloted by the Prefecture.

Marseille Solutions works with Lab Zéro to experiment solutions for social issues and intervenes in Bernard du Bois on the question of “zero non-recours aux droits”, using their rights.

Yes We Camp is in charge of the project and co-pilots it with Groupe SOS, in charge of the accommodation centre, and Plateau Urbain, responsible for renting the spaces for activities. They collaborate with initiatives of Belsunce’s social and cultural actors, like Centre Social Bernard du Bois, Cité de la Musique, Théâtre de l’Oeuvre.

And they work with residents, especially on the green aspect: on the roof of the building, the inhabitants will cultivate green to, once plants, disseminate to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood to vegitalise/green their streets even more than many in the neighbourhood already do.

In the future they want 50 structures to work on the site: companies, associations, all doing things in return for the target group.

Another example is Foresta. This parc was a not used piece of land on a for the sight strategic hill of Marseille, owned bij a company called Résilience. They invited Yes We Camp to use for at least 8 years the 20 ha / 50 acres land to do something attractive with it, meaning making a metropolitan park.

In Foresta, several kind of partners are involved. Next to Yes we Camp and Résilience some local associations dedicated to sport, culture, crafts, four community centres – Foresta is at the convergence of many priority areas – one cooperative of residents (Hôtel du Nord), some artists, urbanists (like Safi, Bureau des Guides..), the Technological Institute and a lot of inhabitants.


Last example is social innovation, working on the talents of the superdiverse community.

And in Marseille many companies take action to do their part of initiating projects and taking responsibilities for societal change.

Sylvie Bancilhon, the leading lady of Table de Cana, a catering firm set up, together with social innovation partner Marseille Solutions a project called “Des étoiles et des femmes” in which every nine months a group of women with lots of cooking talents can do an internship with a top and star chef. The impact of this journey is for those women life changing.

Christophe Baralotto, the owner of Provefarm, a pharma company initiated together with  Marseille Solutions Dégun sans Stage, which means: not without internship. In France every 14 year old has to do an internship of one week in a company or other structure.

Youngsters from deprives neighbourhoods often have no network to find an internship. That’s why this company, located in a technopôle near the northern neighbourhoods of Marseille took the initiative to convince in the first year 60 entrepreneurs to provide internships. The 2018 goal is 500 places for the kids.

Another project is the bank LCL, headhunting young people in sport clubs of deprived neighbourhoods and providing education to become a bank advisor because this youngsters have a great team and competition spirit and a diverse background.


What the design community can learn from Marseille are the attitudes from the bottom-up to accelerate sustainable urban transformations, and doing so, generating impact. Some of these attitudes are for instance: look with new and different eyes, make new and different alliances and use this new and different energy. Experiment, disseminate and use the diversity of the community. See it big, start small, go fast, accelerate optimism, don’t wait, act now, and do it together.

IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN by SocialFare and ELISAVA International open talk | Applied Design Research for SDGs


IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGS and Societal Challenges.
International Open Talk | SDGs Applied Design Research Program

Co-produced by

SocialFare | Center for Social Innovation Italy


ELISAVA – Barcelona School of Design and Engineering


IMPACT THROUGH DESIGN: UN SDGSs and Societal Challenges is an applied research program co-produced by SocialFare | Centre of Social Innovation based in Turin, Italy and ELISAVA – Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, aimed to improve and promote the generation of Social Impact through Design.

The applied design research program will focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and will involve professionals, researchers, public and private institutions as well as the communities in which the best practices of Social Impact Design are already being applied in order to define a programmatic and systemic proposal for the next decade.

Starting in Turin (Italy) on May the 4th, 2018, the program includes an Open Talk Series in Marseille, Barcelona, Matera, Roma, Zurich, Toronto, Boston, Shanghai and will be presented at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.





opentalk#1 | TURIN

Impact through design SDGs and Societal Challenges. The Italian Perspective

Friday 4th May 17.00 – 19.30 h | Rinascmenti Sociali, Via Maria Vittoria 38, Torino


opentalk#2 | MARSEILLE

The Marseille social design and bottom-up perspective

Saturday 19th May 16.00-18.00 h | Femmes D’Ici et D’Ailleurs,  4 Rue Mazagran, 13001 Marseille


opentalk#3 | BARCELONA

Data & the City. Design, Policy and Resilience. The Barcelona Perspective

Wednesday 23rd May 18.30-19.30 h | Elisava Design School, Rambla 32 08002 Barcelona


opentalk#4 | MATERA

The system food-design.  The Community Perspective

Saturday 2nd june from 11.30-12.30 h | Palazzo Lanfranchi, Via Carlo Levi Matera


opentalk#5 | ROME

Digital Social Innovation. Top down either/ or Bottom-up. Which sustainability through design?  The Public Interest Perspective

Thursday 7th June 11.00-12.00 h | Festival dello Sviluppo Sostenibile, 00186 Roma RM, Italy


opentalk#6 | ZURICH

Cultural devices: models of design and design of models. The Zurich perspective

Wednesday 27th June 2018 18.00-19.30 h | Cabaret Voltaire, Spiegelgasse 1,8001 Zürich, Switzerland




opentalk#7 | NEW YORK

Social Impact through design. The Design Schools and Policy perspective toward the transition to sustainability

United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), New York, United Nations

17th July 2018


opentalk#8 | TORONTO

Cultural impact. Principles and practices. The indigenous perspective and technologies.

3rd September 18.00-19,00 h | OCAD university, Toronto, Canada




opentalk#10 | SHANGHAI

Design for city-making. Models and Collaborative cities systems for no-Western social impact.

30th October 17.00-18.30 h | Tonjii University, 1239 Siping Road, Shanghai, China




International Impact Through Design. The Festival

23th November | Rinascimenti Sociali, Via Maria Vittoria 38, Torino, Italy


SocialFare | Center for Social Innovation Italy

SocialFare is the first Center for Social Innovation in Italy. Research, community engagement, capacity building, and co-design are at the basis of our work to develop  innovative solutions to contemporary societal challenges, while generating new economy via social ventures. SocialFare is located in Torino, in the premises of  Rinascimenti Sociali, the place and convergence network dedicated to accelerate social impact knowledge and entrepreneurship in Italy.


ELISAVA – Barcelona School of Design and Engineering

ELISAVA is one of the most important schools of Europe, a pioneer in studies of Design and Engineering. The Centre, affiliated to the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, has 2.000 students from around the world. ELISAVA promotes education, knowledge, research, development and innovation in the field of design, engineering and communication. The School offers a college education that prepares students to meet professional challenges worldwide.