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ARCT5521 Empowering Communities Through Design

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
This unit seeks to use design approaches and frameworks to address global issues (social, economic, environmental and political) by establishing the value of design to a broader audience. By focusing on an issue-based methodology to problem solving, community-centred approaches and the importance of learning from the past, this unit seeks to establish a best practice framework for understanding the field and the worth of design that serves all people.

Social-impact projects are those whose outcomes are measured not through a lens of profits and market adoption, but through changes in behaviour that ultimately benefit individuals and communities as a whole across a broad range of social domains. What sets most social-impact projects apart from more traditional consumer work is the extent to which they must work with a wide range of stakeholders including those traditionally without power and voice, the broad scope of social objectives being addressed and the rigour with which they must be measured for effectiveness. The requirement for assessing and then communicating results is mandatory in this field. In an effort to serve the entire spectrum of people in need – not simply those who can afford design services – it is essential to document results. Through design-based research students will critically analyse and evaluate a range of global issues, their constraints and their respective design strategies. Using design-based solutions, students will then formulate a guide that becomes a framework for others to build from, a foundation for future design approaches to global issues with the ultimate goal of empowering communities.
Students are able to (1) analyse complex, real world problems through research and by synthesizing multiple sources of information; (2) critically evaluate the social impact of design solutions; (3) evaluate collaborative design tactics which bring a broad coalition of stakeholders and embed social impact objectives into the design process; (4) develop alternative design frameworks for complex, real-world problems through consideration of relevant factors that affect the design response to global issues; and (5) communicate the potential of design as an agent for social change.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) case study and (2) proposed framework guidelines. Further information is available in the unit outline.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Lara Pinho
Unit rules
Advisable prior study:
Any Masters level design studio unit.
Contact hours
3 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.