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Design for social innovation for rural development in Turkey: actor relationships in the smart village project

Vatan, Duygu
Today, the availability of the collaborative networks enables the collaboration of many actors that embraces the creation of new opportunities inside the problems that were otherwise assumed to be unsolvable over the years. The innovative way of looking at the problems to seek potential ideas is also known as social innovation. Design as a discipline takes part in social innovation practices by increasing the design capabilities of collaborative networks. In the area of social innovation, rural development becomes an important topic in Turkey. This research investigates one of the rural development projects in Turkey called the Smart Village that aims to increase the agricultural capacity of the farmers through the promotion of smart agricultural products. The thesis aims to provide suggestions for implications of design for social innovation practices in rural development through the lens of actor relations specifically for the context of Turkey. The research consists of two methods, an ethnography in the field of the Smart Village and in-depth interviews with both the villagers and the project implementation team of the Smart Village. Based on the findings, this thesis draws four conclusions. First, the project is closed to the participation of the villagers and black-boxed. To prevent this; the project should be carried out as an open-ended experiment designed in a way that fits with the grassroots practices of the villagers where the actors can participate freely and visualize each other's conditions, expectations. Second, the scale of intervention is an important factor that initiates social innovation that is supported by local values. Instead of generating larger interventions, small scale interventions through peer learning supports the increase in villagers' adaptation to change. Third, the project should be considered as a long-term social innovation project rather than being an extent of a short-term CSR project. Therefore, the perception of promoting gadgets that solely increase the production should be transformed into the contributing capabilities of the actors. Finally, the lack of availability of the collaborative networks in the rural context shows that the project should contribute the capabilities of the actors at each level.