Our proposal for Social Practice Design (SPD), i.e., the design of social practices – in itself a social design activity -, seeks to ensure that the potential benefits of envisioned novel technologies can be realized, by increasing the bias towards the social in Information Systems Development (ISD).

SPD is a form of intervention research or action research based on counselling. It can be considered an extension of Participatory Design (PD) approaches to the implementation phase of information systems. It regards the concept and participative introduction of new things to do, or of new ways to do things, by humans, in order to make place for technology (Ehn 2006), and in order to resolve a variety of other pending social problems in organisations.

In this paper we present SPD as a fully phenomenology-based approach, we reason about its stand in the IS discipline, and we briefly describe and point to an application for a European research project.

What characterize our position in defining SPD are Claudio Ciborra’s Pathos, Improvisation, Caretaking, Bricolage, and other key concepts he puts forth in order to shift the ISD focus from ‘method’, and direct it ‘on human existence and everyday life’ (Ciborra 2002). We are motivated in this choice by the quest for more impact of ISD research on ISD practice, and our belief that phenomenology and counselling are the right recipe ingredients for this.

The approach of Social Practice Design is based on the idea that problem solutions are in the hands of the organisation’s personnel, and that person centred counselling approaches are capable of empowering them and support them to success.

It is well known that social practices cannot be ‘engineered’ but that they are evolving as part of people’s activities of integrating a new technology into their ways of doing. Using the word ‘design’ we wish to stress intentionality, proactiveness, creativity and planning as necessary ingredients of organisational innovation processes; i.e., we underline the usefulness of the cognition of the necessity of a conscious design approach to the development of innovative social practices. Thus, our choice of an oxymoron in the SPD title.

In structure, SPD is similar to any methodology for the social, i.e., it includes multiple perspectives into the usual triad of scientific paradigms: observation, analysis, and synthesis. Its core actions reside in the two basic phases of the ‘design’ approach for innovating social practices: • an ethnographic analysis phase to identify outstanding problems in the area of social practice • a creative design phase for developing social practice innovations

We judge the quality of the SPD approach by three requirements (Baskerville and Myers 2004): a contribution to practice (the action), a contribution to research (the theory), the criteria by which to judge the research, and we show explicitly how the research in the case meets these criteria.