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Towards Relational Design Practices: De-centering design through lessons from community organising -162


Erica Dorn and Tara Dickman

Increasingly, designers seek to design in ways that more deeply involve those who are impacted by the very systems that design aims to repair, improve, or transform. Yet, despite its good intentions, the legacies of design practice often uphold entrenched systems of oppression. Several fundamental components of systems change tend to be absent from most design training and practice: the elements of power and relationships in motivating and sustaining equitable change. Community organisers know what designers may not: that change happens through networks of relationships in a process of power building and sharing. This paper discusses systemic designs’ current positionality, then establishes an understanding of community organising principles, and finally translates several key principles for designers of systems-level change. Finally, we offer parameters for how designers can best support the work of community organisers while maintaining clear boundaries between the role of design and that of community organising. Absent an understanding of power and relationship building, design remains abstracted from the contextual experience needed to confront legacies of oppression. The paper calls for designers to learn from principles and practices of community organising to adopt more relational approaches that can sustain the changes that design often envisions.

Keywords: community organising, relational design, power, design justice, transition design

Pre-proceedings drafts are available for RSD11 participants to review. The corresponding paper number is at the end of the title. The papers have been peer-reviewed, and the authors have made revisions. Following RSD11, authors will have a final period to revise their work from the feedback received at RSD before the proceedings are formally published.

Posted September 2022 content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 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) (20XX). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) Symposium.