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Thursday, July 28 • 1:30pm - 2:00pm
Design for Social Innovation: Integrating the Theory and Practice of Action Research and Participatory Design for Organizational and Social Impact

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2810 This paper explores the similarities, differences and potential synergy between action research, social systems design, and design thinking. As three distinct participatory approaches to systemic change with different origins and assumptions, the authors explore ways in which these approaches can converge for maximum social impact. Kurt Lewin is often referred as the originator of action research within the field of social psychology. In the late 1930s he created the foundation for organizational behaviour and introduced an interactive cycle of reflection, discussion, decision and action which empowered people affected by a problem to cooperate in its solution. Social systems design, as developed by Bela H. Banathy in the 1980s, is a disciplined future creating inquiry that synthesizes and grows from the soft systems science tradition. Its emphasis is in designing the ideal system through a values-driven dialogic process that engages stakeholders into an exploration of “what should be” rather than trying to fix the existing problems. Design thinking is a recent articulation of a similar way of thinking but with the intention of addressing the lack of creativity and innovation capacity in business corporations. Tim Brown coined the buzzword in 2009 and his design company, IDEO, became the leader is popularizing ‘human-centered design” for creative problem solving. Although there are differences in language, assumptions, and methodological approaches, these three participatory processes share the intention of involving people in the creation of new possibilities that will directly impact them. When looking at the complexity of social problems, it is becoming clear than trying to “fix” the current social systems is not sufficient to create a peaceful and sustainable culture. A systemic, future-oriented, and ideal-informed design orientation is necessary to innovate the evolution of human institutions. Education is one of those institutions that is ripe for radical redesign. Rather than continuing to prepare our youth for a broken socio-economic system that does not produce equity and is destroying the environment, we need to empower future generations to engage in a learning process that explores the edge between the known and unknown, and in the spirit of design, involves them in the design and experimentation of new possibilities. As part of the inquiry, the authors share insights, lessons and reflections from the experience of designing an alternative high school program. A group of stakeholders from a charter school in California engaged in the redesign of single subject classes to trans-disciplinary workshops, replacing grades with competency-based assessments such as digital badging, and incorporating deeper experiential learning throughout the high school curriculum. Designing a school in collaboration with the stakeholders was enlightening beyond developing pedagogical innovations customized for the community of learners. Concepts in human-centered design were critical to assist stakeholders, especially traditionally trained teachers, in embracing the systemic changes. Emotional challenges, such as anxiety and apprehension, were addressed through design-thinking principles, such as empathy. The authors learned how elements of each of the three methodologies of action research, social systems design and design thinking each contribute critical components in the process of creating systemic change. This paper explores the similarities, differences and potential synergy between action research, social systems design, and design thinking. As three distinct participatory approaches to systemic change with different origins and assumptions, the authors explore ways in which these approaches can converge for maximum social impact. Kurt Lewin is often referred as the originator of action research within the field of social psychology. In the late 1930s he created the foundation for organizational behaviour and introduced an interactive cycle of reflection, discussion, decision and action which empowered people affected by a problem to cooperate in its solution. Social systems design, as developed by Bela H. Banathy in the 1980s, is a disciplined future creating inquiry that synthesizes and grows from the soft systems science tradition. Its emphasis is in designing the ideal system through a values-driven dialogic process that engages stakeholders into an exploration of “what should be” rather than trying to fix the existing problems. Design thinking is a recent articulation of a similar way of thinking but with the intention of addressing the lack of creativity and innovation capacity in business corporations. Tim Brown coined the buzzword in 2009 and his design company, IDEO, became the leader is popularizing ‘human-centered design” for creative problem solving. Although there are differences in language, assumptions, and methodological approaches, these three participatory processes share the intention of involving people in the creation of new possibilities that will directly impact them. When looking at the complexity of social problems, it is becoming clear than trying to “fix” the current social systems is not sufficient to create a peaceful and sustainable culture. A systemic, future-oriented, and ideal-informed design orientation is necessary to innovate the evolution of human institutions. Education is one of those institutions that is ripe for radical redesign. Rather than continuing to prepare our youth for a broken socio-economic system that does not produce equity and is destroying the environment, we need to empower future generations to engage in a learning process that explores the edge between the known and unknown, and in the spirit of design, involves them in the design and experimentation of new possibilities. As part of the inquiry, the authors share insights, lessons and reflections from the experience of designing an alternative high school program. A group of stakeholders from a charter school in California engaged in the redesign of single subject classes to trans-disciplinary workshops, replacing grades with competency-based assessments such as digital badging, and incorporating deeper experiential learning throughout the high school curriculum. Designing a school in collaboration with the stakeholders was enlightening beyond developing pedagogical innovations customized for the community of learners. Concepts in human-centered design were critical to assist stakeholders, especially traditionally trained teachers, in embracing the systemic changes. Emotional challenges, such as anxiety and apprehension, were addressed through design-thinking principles, such as empathy. The authors learned how elements of each of the three methodologies of action research, social systems design and design thinking each contribute critical components in the process of creating systemic change.

Chairs
avatar for Louis Klein

Louis Klein

SIG Chair: Organizational Transformation and Social Change, louis.klein@segroup.de
Vice President Conferences (2015), International Society for the Systems Sciences SIG Chair:    Systems Applications in Business and Industry SIG Chair:    Organizational Transformation and Social ChangeLouis Klein is an internationally recognized expert in the field of systemic... Read More →

Thursday July 28, 2016 1:30pm - 2:00pm
ECCR 200

Attendees (4)