In October 2013, the research of the PSS 101 team was presented at the Systemic Design Conference at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Norway under the topic 'Strategic Design and Social Systems". The paper "Systemic Design Interventions: Using systems thinking and design thinking to intervene in systems" was co-written with Danielle Arets and Marc de Droog, (Integrity Advisor at the Dutch National Office for Promoting Ethics and Integrity). The article explores how designers can use systems thinking in order to position themselves in relation to complex social/organizational contexts, and the examples presented was the PSS 101 Value Pursuit workshop tool for intervening in complex networks and my Master thesis concerning changing mindsets through furniture production in prison. 

When faced with complex, 'wicked' problems, such as complex societal problems, for instance, there is not always a clear problem to solve. As a designer it can be difficult to know where your contributions will be of strongest value but if the context or larger 'problem' is seen as a system, its possible to pin-point where in the system you can intervene in order to instigate change. 

Systems thinker Donella Meadows describes twelve leverage points where its possible to tweak systems, in her book Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. Meadows indicated a hierarchy of leverage points within systems, where the hierarchy of each point was determined by its effectiveness. Different professionals, ranging from accountatns and business consultants to engineers and strategists are already working in the field of system change, focusing on one or another leverage point. Designers, however, have been rather absent. Through our paper we presented that we would like to add designers to this spectrum by recognizing that out of all available professionals, designers, as creatives, have a lot to offer when it comes to tweaking the most difficult leverage points. According to Meadows, paradigms are the sources of systems and are therefore more difficult to change. However, all that is necessary for a shift in paradigm is sparking a new understanding within an individual. This is where we belive designers can fulfill an important role.

Through using the PSS101 workshop tool called Value Pursuit, we are actually using this tool as a systemic design intervention, as we attempt to align expectations and goals within networks of stakeholders producing complex services. The aim is by creating a real-time overview of the status-quo of the network, we are able to spark a new understanding within stakeholders of where they stand within the system, why it is of benefit to them to be in the network, and provide them a wider understanding of the situation of the other stakeholders involved. 

The project 'Choice within the Making' was also presented as a systemic design intervention as it intervenes in one process that takes place in prison - skill training. By tweaking the production process of carpentry training, its possible to use the process of making a chair as an informal tool fostering reflective thinking. In this example the prison was seen as a system where the inmate comes into the system as an impulsive thinker and needs to leave prison as a reflective thinker in order to be of benefit to society. 

If you wish to read more about this topic, the abstract of the paper and information about this conference can be found here.

Published: 15-Dec-2013 17:59


PSS 101
  • Systemic Design Interventions

  • Systemic Design Interventions

  • Systemic Design Interventions

  • Systemic Design Interventions

  • Systemic Design Interventions

    Visualization by Patricia Kambitsch