Designing for human relationships to positively enable systemic change

How we can design for human relationships to positively enable systemic change? In a rapidly changing world, organisations, communities, and social networks need to be able to continuously adapt. From complex systems theory we learn that strong human relationships are at the core of such adaptive behaviour, and promote mutual learning, collective creativity and motivation. But what can we do to shape these relationships? In the study presented in this article I explored how design expertise can be used to design conditions – e.g. services, platforms and events – that enable positive human relationships. I also argue that an understanding of complex systems behaviour and  of the role of human relationships might help professionals with design expertise to more intentionally design for complex systemic change. The study is one of the reasons we are now developing a course ‘designing for complexity’ for our master students. I would also love to know if the ideas presented in the paper resonate with design practitioners.

Systemic Design Principles in Social Innovation

Hello 2021! The second half of 2020 was very hectic and as a result I have failed to update this blog with the news that Bridget Malcolm and myself finally published our study on Systemic Design Principles in She Ji – The Journal of Design, Economics and Innovation. This is the result of a study we started in 2016 into public and social innovation practices. In the article we show which principles the participating social innovation organisations used that build on systems thinking and design, and what we can learn from them. I hope you enjoy it!

Systemic Design slide deck – Service Design Days Challenge

On October 26th I presented some of my work on systemic design practices at the Service Design Days Challenge at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. I talked about the practices of developing a systemic perspective on the problem, designing for evolution, designing for human relationships, and designing for mental models. This is the slide deck of my presentation. You can find references to the articles I referred to in the talk on the last slide.

Enabling creative third spaces through Transdisciplinary partnerships

Last year we (students and staff from the UTS Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation) worked on a paper on ‘creative third spaces’ in our teaching & learning practice in the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. I am very pleased and proud that the paper has now been published in the International Journal for Students as Partners, and is available open access here:

Why being smart is not enough – the social skills and structures of tackling complexity

Earlier this year I conducted a qualitative study into how professionals collaborate to tackle complex societal problems. There is one thing that became very clear to me and that is that thinking about how we work together and how we behave as individuals, is at least as important as how we think about innovation in complex problem situations. Read more about this study in this blog post.

From designing in teams to designing in networks

Many have turned to the application of design practices when addressing complex societal problems. One of the differences between ‘traditional’ design practice and design in a complex societal context is that design no longer just happens within specialized teams. Instead, designing has broadened to what Ezio Manzini calls ‘a designing network’, where design roles and skills are distributed over multiple stakeholders who are actively involved in making decisions. This fundamentally changes the roles of designers, the people they work with, and arguably the processes they run. While I visited MaRS Solutions Lab earlier this year, Claire Buré and I started to explore the concept of a designing network to draw new insights on collaborations for social innovation. We summarised our insights in this blog.

Slides talk Social Design Sydney – Systemic design for public and social innovation

Earlier this week I shared some of my research about systemic design in public and social innovation, and discussed the implication of systemic design for systems change with Tim Tompson at the Social Design Sydney event ‘Systems change with systemic design‘. You can download a copy of my slides here: 180925systemicdesign_mieke

And watch a video of the talk here: