This position paper brings key Social Design work being conducted in the Design-led Research Centre ImaginationLancaster at Lancaster University in the UK. We position our local and global research in the Social Design landscape, defining the design approaches and methods we have been utilising across projects as well as their limitations. As the Social Design Special Interest Group in the Research Centre, we also clarify what Social Design encompasses in our research and its practice. These were explored through a workshop series with our team and through five case study examples in Brazil, China, India and the UK. The workshop series generated maps that clarified what characterises our research work in this area. Together the workshops’ outputs and the analysis of the cases showed that our Social Design work has focused on underserved communities aiming at collective community purposes and social impact at local and global scales. However, there are still several challenges to advance the field, including designers’ skills in this area, particularly around community trust-building, empowerment and ownership besides the social impact dilemmas. We define those challenges based on the cross-case analysis, defining future directions that can contribute to advancing our Social Design research. This aims to contribute to the debates in this emerging field rather than set propositions of what Social Design is and how it should be carried out with communities.
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