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Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer  and Carine van Loon

In this presentation, we introduce the concept of a systemic mirror: an object or experience that reflects a perspective on stakeholders within systems, the role they play in that system, and the relationship they hold with other stakeholders. Systemic mirrors can be used to help people reflect on mental models of how they view the system they are part of and the role that they play in that system. Donella Meadows suggested that mental models and associated paradigms are a strong leverage point from which system structures emerge. As such, a possible way to achieve the desired system change is to confront people with their mental models so they can start changing systems from within. An often-used format to make people aware of those systems is system visualisation. However, system visualisations present limitations when it comes to communication with system stakeholders. We argue that empathetic and experiential qualities are essential for effective systemic mirroring and that the format of systemic mirrors needs to be aligned with their context of use. We will illustrate this concept by means of a case in which change was desired within a healthcare system around children with special needs and their parents. The systemic mirror designed for this case is a children’s book which presents a unique systemic perspective to stakeholders and proved effective in its empathetic qualities. We would like to conclude the presentation with a dialogue about the characteristics of effective systemic mirrors.  

KEYWORDS: systemic design, mental models, storytelling, design for experience

RSD TOPICS: Cases & Practice, Health & Well-Being, Methods & Methodology

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Citation Data

Author(s): Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer and Carine van Loon
Year: 2023
Title: Designing Systemic Mirrors
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/systemic-mirrors
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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