By Design or by Disaster Conference 2024 → POWER IN TRANSFORMATION

By Design and by Disaster Conference & Calls

We are glad to announce the upcoming By Design and by Disaster Conference, taking place in BASIS Vinschgau Venosta on 10 – 14 July 2024 (featuring an optional joint program with Klimacamp Alto Adige on 13 – 14th July in Vöran-Verano). Since 2013 we’ve been bringing together people and organizations from diverse fields such as design, art, sciences, activism, rural and urban development, etc. We offer a lively mix of talks, workshops, walks, exhibitions, paper presentations, good food, drinks, music, dance, connection, and exchange. The focus in 2024 is Power in Transformation. We start with a call for papers and visual essays ↘︎ more about key dates and double-blind peer-review. Here you find the calls for hands-on workshops and 7 x7 talks.

Extended deadline for abstract submission: 2 April 2024Conference system for submission ↓ more below
→ We very happy that the publisher oekom asked us to publish the proceedings. Currently, we are working on the agreement and are very optimistic to make it work. oekom does both popular publications related to sustainability and scientific publications on social-ecological transformation.→
→ For all questions related to the academic track please write to
For all other questions email

Power in Transformation

Which power is needed for transformation, which power must be overcome, what power is needed to sustain, and which ways of dealing with power and each other do we want to achieve in order to prefigure tomorrow today? 

We are trying to gain an understanding of the diverse dimensions of power in relation to social-ecological transformation. Building upon this, we want to clarify how design and art can contribute in moving towards solidary and just power relations among humans and with the more-than-human world. In other words, we ask how to deal with power in moving from capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy towards commons, care, and queerness? How does design and art contribute to these transformations of power? And what about power in the processes and products of design and art?

While so-called “creatives” increasingly engage with social-ecological transformation, issues of power too often remain at the margin. With this call, we are looking for papers and visual essays, tackling all kinds of questions of power in transformation. While this conference derives from the field of design and art, we welcome and need contributions from other fields, which have long engaged in discussion about power and transformation. We envision controversial and fruitful dialogues with people coming from sciences and humanities along with practitioners in design, arts, architecture, activism, policymaking, etc. Although this is an academic call, we encourage persons without institutional affiliation in academia to hand in proposals. Visual essays are a lightweight format appropriate for case studies and storytelling, which are not predominantly textual, but still underpinned by sound argumentation and references. 

Below, we outline various dimensions of the topic. → To encourage some further thought, we insert a few tasks that we think are relevant to design and art (highlighted in yellow). The text is thought to inspire and open up the field, not to limit it. 

Counter power and prefigure solidary relations

Power is always at stake, especially in determining the directions of societal transformation. It comes into play as power over others and as power to do things together. Powerful actors and interests work against social-ecological transformations. How to disempower them? How to deal with them when they cannot be overcome? 

→ create powerful images, symbols, and narrations that motivate and mobilize…

Social movements and bottom-up initiatives creating spaces for vital eco-social change. How can they scale up and scale out and enhance their transformative power? This poses mainly questions of strategy and organization, such as how to strengthen social movements, connect struggles, build alliances, mobilize more people and organizations, etc. There are many cases where powerful movements have halted the worst destruction of human and natural life (e.g., the resistance against Dakota Access Pipeline, the blockade of the Hambach Forest, the ban of pesticides in Mals, etc.). 

→ adapt/create tools, interfaces, platforms, and spaces to enable mutual understanding, knowledge sharing, organising, collective-decision making, peer-governance and self-organisation… 

While stopping the worst, this goes along with education, training, opportunities for self-determination, mutual support, inclusion, collective learning and action, self-organization, peer-governance and much more. What from the outside appears as a battle, can be prefigurative of a better society inside. 

→ create spaces, pedagogies, and processes for learning and facilitating solidarity and collective action…
→ critically reflect power relations in the processes and products of design and art…
→ take into account the needs and ideas of all concerned, and experiment with…

Push for radical reforms

Strategy and tactics are key in apparently softer forms of confrontations, such as the battles over winning the public opinion and influencing political decisions in order to adopt policies, reforms, and initiatives that promote social justice, equity, and sustainability. This includes radical reforms that enable people and organisations to engage and learn different ways of relating in everyday life. Examples of such reforms are public-commons-partnerships, Universal Basic Services, the reduction of working time, the redistribution of wealth, etc. To a certain degree, these reforms free people, from the coercion to compete for jobs, careers and as consumers to secure their livelihoods and social status. They lay the ground upon which to move towards solidary modes of production and living – in neighbourhoods, regions, and across trans-local networks. They provide time, space and means for social movements, conviviality, care, repair, community economies, energy cooperatives, solidary agriculture, for (political) engagement, collective decision-making, etc. 

→ make alternatives to the capitalist and imperial mode tangible and desirable…
→ campaigning for radical reforms…
→ show the shortcomings of business-as-usual reforms/innovation and other pseudo-solutions…

Done well, participatory and direct democracy can foster fundamental change, too. What are best practice examples, and where are the risks and constraints? … of assemblies and councils, of digital platforms for deliberation and decision-making; initiatives, policies, and resources fostering cooperatives and the democratization of economy and workplace, the socialization of huge private companies–in particular the ones that control essential areas such as housing, land, food, and energy production? 

→ facilitate participatory approaches to socialization of property, and the shaping of the built environment, the commons, and transformation processes in cities and villages…

Which system change?

Overcoming power concentration and building alternatives matters. But as history shows, change risks ending up with other unfree societal formations. To minimize this risk, it is useful to understand the underlying logics and conditions that give rise to problems. How exactly does capitalism generate utmost inequality, thus, the power of the extremely rich over the poorer ones? In which ways does the capitalist dynamic govern everyone, rich and poor? Which conditions are leading to the compulsion to outcompete others, to grow at the expense of others? Why does this kind of power necessarily go along with exploitation of people and nature? How does the capitalist system utilize and reinforce other forms of domination such as sexism, racism, ableism, nationalism, etc.?

The good news: all these are social constructions. They are all structures made by humans, thus they can be changed. The vast majority suffering under these conditions wants change. Why is change it is so difficult to imagine and achieve?

There seems to be an invisible power at work. It appears as inherent material necessity, or simply as normal. Capitalist normality materializes as the market economy, private property, commodification, competition, growth, etc. It is deeply entrenched within infrastructures, the built environment, products and services, institutions, bureaucracy, state and party politics. It is stabilized by pseudo-solutions, attitudes and habits. 

→ make the critique of capitalism understandable for all …
→ debunk normality, materialized power and hidden power structures through investigative/subversive/provocatory/funny/popular/touching /… interventions and media formats…
→ organize non-capitalist economies, join mutual support networks, unions…

Power structures based on gender, skin colour, (binary) identities, class, ability, and their intersections are underpinned by imperialist–white–supremacist–capitalist–patriarchal knowledge systems. The interpretative sovereignty of Western natural science backs this up. It spread along centuries of brutal colonialism continuing until today. In mutated form it is still exploiting nature and people in the global south, destroying ecosystems, communities, and cultures.

→ create awareness of historic and contemporary forms of colonialism and imperialism. Show how it pervades dominant knowledge systems, culture, global exploitation of labour, supply chains and material flows from extraction to waste… 
→ decolonize common attitudes and practices…
→ reflect positionality and act accordingly…

Indigenous societies developed valuable knowledge and practical experience in perceiving themselves as part of nature and acting accordingly. Instead of destroying their basis of existence, we should learn from each other and act in solidarity, both, in resistance and in a life-sustaining web considering multispecies perspectives. What kind of alternatives are needed that systematically strengthen interconnectedness? Which are the logics at the roots of societies that can provide the basis of a good life for all? Which kind of societal re/production and societal relations to nature are needed as fertile ground for inclusion, solidarity, sustainability, care, connection, corporation, response-ability, commoning and the radical democratization in space and time? On which theoretical frameworks, and historic or extant practices can we build upon? … e.g. solidary mode of living, eco-socialism, degrowth communism, common-ism, buen vivir, participatory economy, ubuntu, public luxery, Ngā hono ōhanga oranga…

→ humbly learn from each other, co-design and participate…
→ co-create empowering experiences, narrations, and imaginaries in order to make better societies
imaginable, discussable and desirable … make use of the utopian, imaginative and visionary power of design and art … nourish lightness, giving strength to overcome heaviness… dance!


Extended: 2 April 2024: abstract submission deadline 

250 words (please add references; the bibliography is outside the 250-word limit)

For visual essays, please add 1–3 image(s)

Conference system for submission

25 April Abstract notification

1 July Registration closes

10 – 14 July Conference at Basis Vinschgau Venosta, Silandro BZ

1 September Paper submission deadline

15 October Paper submission notification

15 December publication of proceedings (with ISBN)

Regular papers should be between 3000- 4000 words (Excluding references and abstract). Maximum of 5 images

Visual Essays should be between 2000 – 3000 words (Excluding references and abstract). Maximum 10 Images.

References should be strictly in APA 6th Edition style.

For all questions related to the academic track please write to
For all other questions email

€$¥🤑 Tiered pricing system

The conference offers a structured registration fee schedule designed to accommodate a diverse range of participants. We acknowledge the varying circumstances of our attendees and have thus established a tiered pricing system to ensure accessibility. Here is a detailed breakdown of the registration fees:

Students (and others without significant income): 0 €

Phd Students (and others with precarious working conditions): 50 €

Participants in a decent income or sponsorship/institutional affiliation: 120 €

Fees for persons presenting papers or visual essays in the academic track (this includes publication in the proceedings, if the papers/essays are accepted):

Phd Students and persons without institutional affiliation: 70 €

Persons with institutional affiliation: 170 €

All will get 3+ days full of keynotes, talks, workshops, walks, party, food, drinks. Some food and drinks will have to be paid separately. Details will follow as soon as we figured out exact costs, logistics, etc.

Stay up-to-date

You can join the By Design and by Disaster newsletter, its blog and social media channels (FB, IG). Here you find a review of last year’s conference and the proceedings of the academic track.

Scientific Committee

Marc Herbst
Kris Krois
Mustapha El Moussaoui
Teresa Palmieri
Anja Salzer
Elisabeth Tauber