Dr Sharon Prendeville

Senior Lecturer and Programme Director, Institute for Design Innovation

Sharon Prendeville

Dr Sharon Prendeville is Head of the Institute’s Research Group, Director of the MSc Design Innovation programme. She specialises in critical and democratic aspects of design research and practice, drawing on theories from environmental politics, social movement studies, and critical studies of design and management. Sharon teaches ‘Design Futures’ where she engages students in these explorations into the design of social systems.

Sharon is Principal Investigator on the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project ‘Counter-Framing Design’. In 2020, she was profiled as one of the AHRC’s Design Research ‘Future Stars’. She was invited Chair of Conversations at DRS2018 and has previously held teaching and research posts at world-leading design schools including TU Delft, The Netherlands, and the Royal College of Art, London, UK. In 2014, she co-initiated a transnational collective to explore counter-cultural and peer-to-peer practices for sustainability. You can read more about Sharon’s work at Design Dissonance.

Academic background

Through her PhD, Sharon specialised in complexity and dilemmas in eco-design decision-making for sustainable business. Sharon has since developed explorations into the role of design in building social systems and its potential to foster new ways of living in response to ecological and social crises.

She has been a researcher, practitioner, or investigator on a variety of projects working with business, policy and community stakeholders, that bring design to bear on social or environmental challenges in diverse ways – through public sector innovation, citizen-organising, city-making, and envisioning new social institutions.

Examples of Sharon’s past activities include ‘Circular Makerspaces’ funded by the EPSRC’s Future-Makerspaces project and the Innovate UK-funded ‘Office Chair for Life’. Her contribution to Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions exploring questions of citizen-engagement in social innovation through circular economy, is one of the journal’s top three most-cited articles. 

Current research and collaborations

Sharon researches design innovation for sustainability through critical and interdisciplinary perspectives.

She is Principal Investigator on ‘Counter-Framing Design’, an AHRC-funded early career researcher grant (almost £250,000) that investigates the politics of design framing practices within the field of sustainability. The project commenced in February 2020 and will develop a new design approach, working in partnership with UK-based citizen activist groups working on citizen-led democratic processes and social mobilisation. She is co-investigator on an enterprise project to develop a citizen-centred ‘Design for Policy Toolkit for Social Innovators’.

Her current research focuses on three interlinked areas: the epistemic role of design in institutionalising sustainability; theorising design politics in/through/for social movements; design as a social process which negotiates democratic outcomes.

Her latest talks and writing include perspectives on design discourses of social change, the politics of design framing practices, and the design politics of deep participation.

Current PhD / research supervisions

Vicky Gerrard – PhD title: Politicising Public Engagement through Participatory Design

Noémi Zajzon – PhD title: Forming Design Action

Kavitha Ravikumar– PhD title: ‘Understanding the nature of a proactive engagement with sustainability discourses by Small and Medium Enterprises though the lens of purposeful design in organisations’

Boeun Hong – PhD title: Undesigning Stigma: Design Innovation for Deconstruction of Disability Stigma based on the Ontological Understanding of Design

Completed PhD / research supervisions

Dr Federico Vaz – PhD title: Policy Innovation by Design: Understanding the role of design in the development of innovative public policies.

Interests and activities

Sharon is interested in community engagement. In the past, she has secured Loughborough University London’s involvement in Climathon2018, partnering with the London Legacy Development Corporation.

Sharon’s mobilising and organising work has been written about as a pioneering example of ‘twenty first century economics’ by Kate Raworth in her book, Doughnut Economics(Penguin, 2017), which includes initiating a platform for hosting sustainability hackathons that has led to 100s of hackathons globally.

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