Otago Polytechnic

DESIS Otago

DESIS Otago is located at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand. We are part of the international DESIS Network of research institutions which are actively engaged in research with a focus on Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability. 

Our DESIS Coordinator is Associate Professor Caro McCaw, who can be contacted at desis@op.ac.nz or by phone on +6421735846. DESIS Otago’s postal address is Otago Polytechnic, Private Bag 1910, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand. We welcome enquiries and collaboration opportunities.

DESIS Otago Coordinator Dr Caro McCaw is an Associate Professor in our School of Design. Our design disciplines include Communication Design, Fashion, Product Design, Food Design, Architectural Studies, Information Technology, and Engineering Technologies. We have been offering design degree programmes since 2005 and design postgraduate programmes since 2010. Our School of Design has been a member of the international Cumulus network since 2007.

Otago Polytechnic has a strong organisational focus on community-centred research and on experiential learning for students. We have incorporated sustainability into all the programmes we offer and into our own institutional practices. We have a developed a local tradition of co-design with community organisations, using social and environmental histories and contemporary experiences, and designing innovative experiences, brands and messages that live in public spaces, and sometimes as exhibitions in museum and non-museum spaces. Through these projects we are able to connect design students and researchers, in collaborative ways with citizen engagement and local storytelling.

Characteristics of DESIS Otago are:

  • A preference to partner with not-for-profit community organisations.
  • Place-based research, strongly grounded in our local environments.
  • A mix of short-term and multi-year projects that build long-term relationships.
  • An emphasis on project-based learning for our students, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

An example of our work featuring all of these characteristics is our project partnership with the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.