Community service through applied design research in the university : serving people with special needs

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Universities are often criticised as ivory towers disconnected from the real world. Because universities obtain resources from society, it is important and necessary for them to provide direct and indirect benefits to society, particularly to people with special needs (PSNs) and the deprived. Since 2005, the researchers, designers and research students of the Public Design Lab of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University have conducted applied design research projects focusing on the well-being of ordinary people, PSNs in particular. This article reviews the need for universities to contribute to community service. It then introduces several applied design research projects conducted in Asian cities and discusses the meaning and value of the projects. Focusing on the particular needs of PSNs, the article advocates applied design research and discusses the importance of, the difficulties of and the possibilities for using applied design research to bring short-term and long-term benefits to society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the world universities forum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Applied design research
  • Community service
  • People with special needs (PSNs)
  • Social contribution
  • Social innovation
  • University research

Cite this