Platforms of co-creation: Learning interprofessional design practice in creative sustainability

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Contemporary design and planning activities often involve complex and multifaceted problems that call for collaborative assessment between several actors, concepts, and interests. The overarching discourse on sustainability is a clear example, connecting together not only scientific research and politics, but also the perceptions and actions of professionals and laypeople. Recently, academic education has become increasingly structured around overarching thematic content, involving problem- and project-based learning in real-world contexts and in interprofessional constellations. Design, as a professional practice is collaborative problem-solving and communication, can offer several insights into the management of such interaction; and yet, in the context of sustainability, design becomes challenged as a discipline, constrained by the professional, institutional, and cultural structures and roles in contemporary meaning-making. This research studies the context of interprofessional design education for sustainability – more specifically, the development and implementation of an international and interprofessional Master’s degree study program in Creative Sustainability (CS), initiated in 2010 at Aalto University, Finland. The case assessment on which the analysis is based consists of three sets of interviews with supportive data, collected from the initiators, teachers, and students of the CS program between the years 2010 and 2015. Overall, the findings contribute to an understanding of how (design) professionalism contributes to sustainability, what type of support is needed in learning for interprofessional design for sustainability, and how such learning developes the (design) academia itself. In analyzing the case, the analytical framework builds on cultural-historical activity theory, with supporting insights that are drawn from practice theory (with a notion of communities of practice) and actor-network theory. In line with these theoretical perspectives, and to emphasize organizarional learning and developmental perspectives, interprofessional interaction in the academic context is constructed to involve three phases – priming, implementing, and experiencing – that also act as analytic components in assessing data. In this research, those aspects that are identified as important in implementing interprofessional learning for sustainability are ensuring that sufficient resources and competences exist to initiate practical inquiries and real-world interaction, and determining that the learning connects back to the initial objective of developing practice. Through such a process, a new kind of professionalism emerges, also renewing the academia as a platform for transdisciplinary action. For Aalto University, the CS interaction created new openings for outreach and for the development of teaching. At the same time, however, this new interaction became conflicted with existing interests and conventions, introduced by the various actors and interacting agendas, and the roles and structures in the current academia.
Translated title of the contributionPlatforms of co-creation : learning interprofessional design practice in creative sustainability
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Supervising Professor
  • Jalas, Mikko, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8135-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8136-6
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • sustainability
  • sustainable design
  • interdisciplinarity
  • transdisciplinarity
  • design education
  • activity theory


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