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

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.

Posted: Sep-2016

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