Mamta Gautam

National Institute of Design Haryana

This case study brings to the fore designer‘s experience and challenges of intervening in a complex social system. The presentation refers to the “Need Assessment Study of Occupational and Health Hazards Faced by Desludging Workers in a City in India.” This study marked the first milestone towards understanding the safety concerns of sanitation workers in the larger context of safe sanitation practices in small and medium towns in India, where faecal sludge management is emerging as a viable way forward under the larger system of faecal sludge management. This paper focuses on the research methodology and processes used in the study in order to better understand how these might be replicated or used in other similar contexts. In particular, the presentation shall discuss the interrelationships at length to understand the dynamic, multicausal, and unpredictable nature of the complex social system as found during the study. Conducted in two Indian cities, the de-sludging operators offer cleaning services to households, establishments, and industries. (Mamta Gautam et al,19).

This presentation discusses the research design, its implementation, and findings leading to systemic design. This is being discussed from the perspective of the author as the lead design researcher for the project commissioned by IIHS.

KEYWORDS: problem system, sanitation, complex adaptive system, participatory research methods, behaviour change

Citation Data

Author(s): Mamta Gautam
Year: 2022
Title: From a Problem to the Problem System
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 122
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 22 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

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.

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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.


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