Design Capital: Unearthing the Design Capabilities of Community Groups
Katerina Alexiou, Vera Hale, Theodore Zamenopoulos


The paper focusses on exploring the design capabilities of community groups. It formulates a framework which synthesises Amartya’s Sen capability approach with asset-based approaches to community development, to propose an original view of design capability as a collective attribute, pertaining to the interaction between individual skills and knowledge and the socio-cultural environment within which they are developed. The paper further uses the seven capitals framework as an analytical tool to explore the actual design capabilities of community/citizen groups as they unfold in the context of a design project, and from their own perspectives. The analysis reveals a new type of capital, design capital, which refers to the collective command of converting assets into new constructs that enhance a community’s capabilities to achieve what they value to do or be. The proposed capability perspective of design frames design practice in relation to power and freedom, placing emphasis on valuation as a driver and outcome of the design process, and positioning professional designers as enablers acting within a network of human, social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental assets.

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