Erica Dorn and Tara Dickman

Transition Design, Carnegie Mellon University | Le Next Level

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. Fundamental components of systems change tend to be absent from most design training and practice: including the elements of power, relationships, and ownership in motivating and sustaining equitable change. Community organisers know what designers may not—that change happens through networks of relationships in a process of collective power building. This paper discusses systemic design’s current positionality and establishes an understanding of community organising principles, and finally translates several key principles for designers of systems-level change. It calls for designers to learn from principles and practices of community organising to adopt relational approaches that can sustain the promise that systemic design envisions and enables.

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

Citation Data

Author(s): Erica Dorn and Tara Dickman
Year: 2022
Title: Towards Relational Design Practices: De-centering design through lessons from community organising
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 182
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 20 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.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

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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