Brave New Alps: Let’s make work work!

Saturday, March 11, 10:40 – 11:30


The good news: more and more designers want to critically and transformatively engage with pressing social and environmental issues. The bad news: design for progressive eco-social change generally doesn’t pay much. So many designers face the dilemma that in order to do eco-social work for a living you need to be either super clever, super connected, or super privileged, while very few of us are super-something.

Obviously the situation is way more nuanced than this and varies a lot from person to person. But overall we would say that it is this dilemma that brought us to inquire how — as designers — we can collectively activate our skills and resources to create economic cultures that make such transformative work possible in the short as well as in the long-run for as many of us as possible.

In our intervention we will share some key findings that emerged from pursuing that question — both by experimenting with our own design practice and by engaging with the organisational strategies of other eco-social designers.

Short Bio

Brave New Alps is the collective name under which Bianca Elzenbaumer and Fabio Franz have collaborated since 2005. Brave New Alps are designers committed to exploring the politics of social and environmental issues. They use design as a vector through which to question our surrounding realities and to proactively suggest alternatives. Their current research interests revolve around the commons, community economies and critical posthumanism.

Bianca works as a research fellow at Leeds College of Art and Fabio as a research assistant at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. 

More information on Brave New Alps can be found on their homepage.

Suggested Readings

  • Weeks, Kathi. 2011. The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Gibson-Graham, J.K., and Ethan Miller. 2015. “Economy as Ecological Livelihood.” In Manifesto for Living in the Anthropocene, edited by Katherine Gibson, Deborah Bird Rose, and Ruth Fincher, 7–16. New York: Punctum Books.

  • Brave New Alps and Caterina Giuliani. 2015. “Precarity Pilot – Redirecting the Path of Our Working Lives.”


How can today’s designers confront — via practice — widespread conceptions of how we should deal with innovation, social relations, time, fame and power, in order to break out of capitalist definitions of which activities are worthy of our time?

Our desire is not to stabilise economically precarious design practices as they are, but rather to create favourable conditions, in which it is possible for designers to imagine and actuate what they could become when not pressured to conform to the needs of the market.

We are convinced that progressive eco-social change will not be brought about by one genius design practice. Therefore, we see a pressing need to create relations of solidarity and mutuality in order not to perpetuate the individualisation and competition that keeps us locked into the detrimental status quo.