The project

Figure 1. Our wellbeing and ability to learn are impacted by the quality of our connections1

It’s human nature to want to fit in. Indeed, at some point in our lives, most of us – whether classified as a shy introvert or the most outgoing of extroverts – experience that awkward feeling of not quite belonging. But what does it actually mean to belong? The Belonging Project aims to find the answer to this question and to understand and learn how we can design for belongingness and human connectedness. It focuses on young people – children, teenagers, students – as human connection and wellbeing are also intrinsically connected to learning and thereby have a great impact on their chance to flourish in life1

Helping young people flourish

Social innovation research

The Belonging Project takes place in the broader context of our research into design practices for social innovation. Over time, the design practice has moved from designing ‘things’ to one that focuses on social innovation, aiming to create value for society as a whole rather than the individual3. Strengthening the human connectedness among young people is such a complex societal challenge. The current design practices and principles are and need to be adapted to be able to design for social innovation.

Figure 2. Range of research topics within The Belonging Project

Examples of current practices are systemic design, human-centred design, iterative design, framing and collaborative design practices. Within the Belonging Project, we are also interested in the development and impact of these practices in relation to solving societal challenges. What can these practices bring to this type of challenges and how can we learn to improve their application?

Designing network

There is a broad scope of research and graduation projects that can be undertaken to promote belonging among young people, from exploring the abstract meaning of a human relationship, to designing a service for young children at school, or zooming out to redesign a policy-making process that indirectly impacts our societal wellbeing.

The Belonging Project also wants to bring people and (public) organisations together whose work is related to the promotion of belonging among young people. Through in-depth design research, workshops, research experiments and graduation students research, the aim is to build relationships and ultimately to form a ‘Designing Network that Promotes Belonging’. If more and more organisations collaborate towards the same goal,  social innovation initiatives will be more effective and continuous4

Figure 3. Building a Designing Network can result in more effective and continuous social innovation

Opportunities for collaboration and graduation students 

Want to collaborate or are you a master student who is searching for a graduation project in any of the topics of the Belonging Project? Or do you already have a topic in mind that might match our field of research? Contact Eva Legemaate, see about us


1: Van der Bijl, M. (2020, June 20). Learning is joy — wellbeing challenges in pandemic higher education. Medium.

2: Seligman, M. E. (2002). Positive psychology, positive prevention, and positive therapy. Handbook of positive psychology, 2(2002), 3-12.

3: van der Bijl-Brouwer, M., & Malcolm, B. (2020). Systemic Design Principles in Social Innovation: A Study of Expert Practices and Design Rationales. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation6(3), 386-407.

4: Manzini (2015). Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. MIT Press Books.