Counter-Framing Design is a meta-design research project whose goal is to interrogate dominant frames within the sustainability field in order to develop new structural approaches for co-sustainment and social change. We collaborate with grassroots groups engaged in ‘new economics’: innovative community-led approaches to sustaining livelihoods, which prioritize human and planetary well-being. We see sustainability as an intersecting set of issues concerning multiple communities, including marginalized groups. Counter-Framing Design builds on the emerging field of design anthropology, deploying methods across an extended time-horizon, including ethnographic field research, critical discourse analysis, visual mapping and interventions through culturally embedded design artefacts, to uncover the relationship between socio-political framing and strategic action in the sustainability field. By foregrounding counter-frames, the project aims to go beyond institutionalized forms of sustainable design and to support researchers and practitioners to achieve design solutions to implement radical change for shaping sustainable futures.

Social Change
Design Anthropology
Design Transgressions
Politics of Design
Climate Crisis
New Economics

The project is based at the Institute for Design Innovation, Loughborough University London, and is funded by a £250,000 award granted by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It started in February 2020 and will end in June 2022.


Citizens UK organizes communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good. Their diverse member organizations include schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, parents’ groups, health practice, charities and trade unions. They help these members to develop leaders, so they can participate in public life and hold politicians and other decision-makers to account on the issues that matter to them. Community organizing is democracy in action: winning victories that change lives and transform communities. Citizens UK’s vision is for a healthy democracy with civil society at its heart.


Echo is an Economy of Hours: a marketplace without the money. Members buy and sell their skills, services and resources they have for those that they need, using a currency called Echoes. Echo is an online marketplace, but their passion is in fostering offline connections, strengthening relationships in and between communities; these relationships are key to community cohesion and resilience, enabling people to live more empowered, creative and connected lives. Echo is a network of 5500+ members, ranging from local residents right up to large corporates, all trading with Echoes.


Public Works is a not-for-profit critical design practice set up in 2004 that occupies the terrain in-between architecture, art and performance. Together with an interdisciplinary network, they re-work the city’s opportunities towards citizen-driven development and nurture their rights over the city. Public Works’ projects are interested in what constitutes civic in the city and how to re-design structures that restrict it. They create long sustained relationships that build commonality, trust and enable co-authorship. Outputs include discursive events, research, campaigns, urban strategies, participatory art and architecture across all scales.