Community Design challenge: Unlocking the potential of Social enterprise and Entrepreneurship USING Universal design and interdisiplinary teams

Bernard Timmins

Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton St,


Background: DIT’s Product Design students, Enable Ireland Assistive technology Expert Users, nursing students from Trinity College Dublin and Medical Design students from Purdue University, USA came together in interdisciplinary teams to attempt to address social barriers within society highlighted by those people with illness or disability.  Using collective skills and principles of universal design, teams competed to create designs for prize money and to present their design at an Enable Ireland Assistive Technology event hosted in Microsoft Ireland.

Aim: This presentation aims to describe the background and current understandings of this interdisciplinary approach to designing with the community.  It outlines the risks and benefits of such initiatives by analysing and presenting participant feedback.

 Methods: A literature search using the key terms “interdisciplinary research” and “social enterprise” revealed relevant sources. These were then used to explore the evidence base beneath events like the community design challenge.

Findings: Findings revealed that community based events like this can change the participants’ perceptions. Although the total time for the events was only four hours, strong teams were created. This is evident from the student feedback and within the design outcomes. A reoccurring issue was the venue acoustics, a number of participants couldn’t fully engage with the event due to the noise levels of the other participants in the room. Finally community events such as this design challenge have social benefits, which range from corporate sponsorship to inspiring student projects.

Discussion: Community based interdisciplinary events have real potential to contribute actively to the disability community in Ireland and can inspire social enterprise and entrepreneurship.