A Systemic Co-Design Iceberg: A systemic perspective in the ever-evolving practice of empathic co-design -104


Wina Smeenk

Societal challenges have become increasingly pressing. They affect us all: citizens, designers and researchers. Truly understanding and tackling them is difficult because no single stakeholder nor organization is responsible for them, and everything is connected, interwoven and in a current state of change. Moreover, there is mutual interaction and entanglements between people, non-humans and technology. Next, systemic challenges based on the relationships, interactions and experiences between stakeholders and their environments are dynamic. They evolve. Subsequently, it is hard to see the playing field. This makes challenges orphaned and stakeholders unable or unwilling to make all kinds of important decisions. This ambiguity leads to a lot of uncertainty. Combined with blind spots, implicit world views, tacit mechanisms and latent values, this also hinders change and limits social innovation capacity. Which raises the question: how to gain agency to individually act as a stakeholder in these complex challenges in a way that adds up to the collective?

Nowadays, design and, more specifically, systemic co-design is increasingly seen as a possible approach. Since design can deal with uncertainty, it is optimistic and inquisitive in nature. Moreover, supported by abduction logic, design makes creative leaps which can lead to radical change. Even more, a co-design and empathic approach allow us to identify and share stakeholders’ individual differences and interests, as well as shared perspectives and ambitions. This enables us to create new bonds-potential new value networks – and to co-imagine alternative futures. Yet, to make this empathic co-design potential work, the design profession itself needs to shift right along with our transforming world. Design needs to adopt new methodological and flexible strategies that support stakeholders in adaptively and empathically responding to dynamic contexts and collaborations.

The main question rises: how to create a systemic co-design culture, approach and structure that opens up stakeholders to reveal implicit world views, values and mechanisms which will support their agency and provides for radical and shared opportunities for change.

In this paper, I argue that this requires working beyond methods that connect empathic co-de¬sign with a systemic perspective. I, therefore, contribute two new insights. First, I introduce using explicit ‘sphere of life’ mechanisms as an ingredient in design abduction. Second, I argue that an ‘iceberg’ consisting of systemic co-design elements might give guidance to multi-stakeholder coalitions in identifying individual and collective latent values. Together they can lead to multi-value creation and systemic change in value networks.

Keywords: abduction, iceberg, sphere of life, value network, multi-value creation, mechanism

Pre-proceedings drafts are available for RSD11 participants to review. The corresponding paper number is at the end of the title. The papers have been peer-reviewed, and the authors have made revisions. Following RSD11, authors will have a final period to revise their work from the feedback received at RSD before the proceedings are formally published.

Posted September 2022 content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested Citation Format (APA)

Author(s) (20XX). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) Symposium.