Citizens as Co-designers: Facilitating Systemic Change at the Policy Level

Format: Papers, RSD5, Topic: Policy & Governance

Karen Ingerslev & Trine Naldal

Managers of welfare organizations develop services, which do not sufficiently take citizen perspectives into consideration. The result is often even more services, need of coordination and an increase of tax-payer funded expenses. This proceedings paper presents and discuss a full-scale experiment called Borgerdesign Aarhus (Citizen Design Aarhus) with the ambition to change this game. Citizens are experts-by-experience and co-designers in the experiment, aimed at facilitating systemic change at the policy and strategy level. Through multi-sided ethnography and design processes, facilitators, citizens and managers take a deep dive into big societal problems, like anxiety and diabetes from several perspectives. The design team seeks to balance the stakes of multiple perspectives and introduces new types of partnerships, encouraging new management actions.

Three tensions transform the citizen design process into citizen designing; the required team diversity of knowledge and expertise, the wish for designing within and beyond hierarchies and the ambition of balancing design and bureaucracy. The primary outcome of citizen designing is learning through new types of actions, which challenge the mindset of top managers in the participating public welfare organizations. Citizen designing facilitates mind shift. The paper concludes with next steps in terms of anchoring and scaling the experiment.

Citation Data

Author(s): OCTOBER 2016
Title: Citizens as Co-designers: Facilitating Systemic Change at the Policy Level
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 20 September 2016
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 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). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights