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Research as Intervention—Systemic and participatory design as tools for knowledge production and transformative change

Format: Papers, RSD12, Topic: Cases & Practice, Topic: Socioecological Design

Celiane Camargo Borges and Licia Calvi

Many challenges we face today, like climate change, resource depletion, and social inequality, are complex, multidimensional and interconnected. They cannot be tackled by just looking at each individual dimension they are made of but should be considered as a complex entity that is more than just the sum of each individual element in it. As part of a larger system, they are interdependent. These challenges need knowledge to be better understood, but this knowledge is not an end in itself but a means to be translated into a plan of action to help resolve them.

In the present paper, we connect the approach of system thinking with the theory of social construction and the actions of design thinking. This combination focuses on modes of inquiry that blur the traditional distinction between research and social change (e.g., consultation, program development, etc.). We will explore what research from a constructionist/design thinking looks like. We work with participatory and collaborative formats to engage people and the system, producing knowledge while transforming the system.

We will illustrate this approach by means of a case related to a participatory and collaborative project in the Silva Jardim region in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The case shows how changes in one part of the system, in this case, engaging youngsters in a region, can have ripple effects on other parts of the same system, such as promoting environmental sustainability, supporting social entrepreneurship and enhancing social equity. By recognising that the system is more than its individual parts, by identifying them and the way they are interconnected and by designing interventions that address multiple parts of the system, we can facilitate a transition, in this case, toward more sustainable and resilient places. In the case discussed, the intervention becomes the vehicle for research and knowledge exchange, and at the same time, because of the participation of (part of) the community in the process, it can provoke a (transformative) change that irradiates in the whole system (the community).

KEYWORDS: systemic design, holistic diagnosis, research, intervention

RSD TOPIC(S): Cases & Practice, Socioecological Design

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Citation Data

Author(s): Celiane Camargo Borges and Licia Calvi
Year: 2023
Title: Research as Intervention—Systemic and participatory design as tools for knowledge production and transformative change
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/tool-for-knowledge-transformation
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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