The current economic model is based on infinite growth through the use of supposedly infinite natural resources, giving precedence to economic benefits over caring for biological and social systems. In reality, the labour, energy and raw materials associated with most of the products we consume are not cheap as they are advertised, because their environmental and social impacts are not gauged within the real costs of any product or company. Externalities are hidden, charged to local communities and ecosystems that sustain the global supply chains.

If we want to envision regenerative futures for productive cities that can maintain atoms on a local scale in bioregions and move bits of information on a planetary scale, distributed innovation processes must be enabled in which urbanization can become restorative and regenerative, to thereby reconfigure relationships between species and life forms that make it possible to think, read and write with the experience of living in between. In this scenario the Master in Design for Distributed Innovation (MDDI) is a learning program focused on the intersection of design, technology, ecosystems and communities to improve interspecies wellbeing. It connects a global community of change-makers with local innovators in order to address complex challenges.


The Fab City global initiative – conceived between Barcelona and Boston – proposes a change in the production paradigm to a new one in which atoms stop traveling thousands of kilometers to get to our hands and stomachs; on the contrary, they mostly circulate locally. In Fab Cities, bits of information travel great distances around the planet, thanks to the digital revolution in telecommunications and computation, and emerging digital manufacturing technologies. Digital fabrication will become the key to developing over the upcoming decades an urban model focused on the development of locally productive cities and bioregions that are globally connected. Local manufacturing and production could help to increase the resilience of citizens and enable them to regain the ability to meet the needs of their local communities.

Distributed Learning

To transition to a new production paradigm, design takes on a new role in the constellation of planetary crises that have been caused by our current industrial model, through which design originally became a revered discipline. Design education has been based on those colonial foundations and globalized ideals of the past. A shift is needed towards how we learn to, from and with design by imagining new processes to reconfigure the relationship between humans and the natural ecosystems around them, and methodologies and approaches rethought to learn and understand how to design from and for diverse contexts.

Using the success of the distributed learning program, Fab Academy as a basis, MDDI creates a global campus where nodes offer students access to fab lab facilities to prototype and bring ideas to life. Creating a 21st century digital education network of design, technology and bioregional principles the program blends the best of digital and physical learning environments. By offering an international accredited program, MDDI enables a global network to pursue the purpose of the Fab City global initiative to change the global production and design system through a professional formation.

MDDI is a practical program based on emergent theoretical approaches based on the experience of Fab Lab Barcelona, IAAC, the Global Fab Lab Network along with worldwide researchers and practitioners. Offering a novel learning experience, connecting faculty and students from all over the world with distributed infrastructure for digitally fabricating (almost) anything, generating a 21st-century educational platform aligned with contemporary digital-physical relationships, diversity,, globalization and localization.

Through these structures students will have the unique chance to learn online in their local cities from faculty, researchers, practitioners and students from all over the world, but at the same time to prototype and impact in their living places, by developing and implementing technology-based implementations of new technologies, design methodologies and implementation strategies.

Students will have access to digital manufacturing laboratories equipped with all the digital and analog prototyping tools and necessary infrastructure for the development of classes, assignments and projects. Also, to ensure the quality of the learning experience, compliance with the learning process and support in the development of students projects, each node will have local instructors who will be the articulators of this distributed learning network. Accompanying students in their process by providing practical and methodological support.

A Multilayer and Scalable Methodology

MDDI is designed using the multiscale approach outlined by the Fab City global initiative. This layered approach forms the basis of the program, framing the methodological approach to conceptualizing transformational change.

Fab City Full Stack

The Fab City Full Stack is a working taxonomy developed by the Fab City Foundation to organize and implement projects at different scales. Composed of complementary and non-linear layers for cities, regions and towns, to make the Fab City implementation in a multiscalar and ecosystemic approach operational. Each interconnected layer is a space of practice and deployment, scaling Fab Lab experiences to a bioregional level in a systemic approach.

  • Connecting through Platform Ecosystems: Repositories of projects for urban transformation. Distributed and decentralized repositories and value exchange mechanisms for global collaboration. Fab Chain, the blockchain project to enable distributed design and manufacturing within Fab City.
  • Applying Bioregional Development: Shared metrics to assess progress towards local production in cities and their bioregions. Policy formulation, regulation, and planning for regenerative urbanization.
  • Cultivating Networks of Communities and Cities: Global urban transformation programs related to the local production and processing of food, energy, water, information or other production systems. Implementation and deployment strategies by Fab City Collective.
  • Developing Shared Urban and Territorial Strategies: Actions at the neighborhood scale, town scale, and rural areas. Development of Fab City prototypes where innovations can be tested and iterated on-site, feeding back to the larger scales in cities, regions, and globally.
  • Enabling Impact-based Incubation at Local Scale: Programs to support innovation in regenerative technologies, harnessing the power of Fab Labs as a distributed knowledge network to visualize, design and create open-source technology for urban transformation.
  • Design New forms of Learning Skills of the Future: Creation of distributed programs that offer opportunities for the development of skills to learn by doing principles, the basis of lifelong learning. The Academy of Almost Anything (Fab Academy, Bio Academy, Fabricademy), STEAM education and professional training.
  • Developing Distributed Infrastructure for Local Production: People, communities, spaces (Fab Labs, Makerspaces, Hackerspaces), machines, tools, flexible factories, installed industrial capacity, material libraries. There are already thousands of spaces and communities in all the main and medium-sized cities of the world.

With a diverse international Faculty team including researchers, activists and practitioners from all over the world, MDDI is structured over a methodology to deconstruct complex problems through a systemic approach to identify different but interconnected design opportunities. Connecting the scales of infrastructures, communities, cities and bioregions, to create sustainable and productive cities through design.


MDDI program has been designed by researchers, practitioners and thought-leaders from Fab City, Fab Lab Barcelona, IAAC and the global Fab Lab Network ecosystems, gathering a unique and internationally recognised team.


Discover more about how distributed learning works!

Apply to the Master in Distributed Design for Innovation (MDDI).