1| Policy Design and decision-making

Proceedings of RSD7, Relating Systems Thinking and Design 7
Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy  23th-26th October 2018

Section content 

Bellefontaine ​T., Soliman M.
Integrating Systems Design and Behavioral Science to Address a Public Sector Challenges from Within

Faiz K., Faiz P., Adha Binti Nordin N., McDonagh D., Woodcock A., Binti Shamsul Harumain Y. A.
Permeating the barriers between the individual and policy designers in Pakistan: a cross-cultural study of women’s mobility

Fassio F., Tecco N.
Turin Food Atlas. Sharing knowledge towards urban food policies to develop circular cities

Feast L.
Constitutional Realism and Sustainability: Lessons Learned From a Systemic Design Investigation of New Zealand’s Democratic System

Mastroeni M.
Smart specialization in non-metro canadian regions

Mehta N., Richard C., Raut S.
A Systems Approach to Sustainability in Space

Metzner-Szigeth A.
Eco-Social Transformations: Leading Principles and Generative Forces

Muirhead L. , Mosse R., Hachey A. , Scott N.
Integration of multiple approaches into the Social Lab practice. A case study from a Social and Public Innovation Lab in New Brunswick, Canada.

Paulsen A., Wildhagen B., Sevaldson B.
Gearing up the level of systems oriented design in public sector. Case, experiences and learning from Stimulab innovation program

Peter K., Kerr H.
Alternative Narratives on Economic Growth: Prototyping Change at the System Level

Stamatopoulou A.
Mapping-and-Designing (in) relationally composed fields

Taverna A., Mortati M.
A reflection on connecting complexity theory and design for policy

Wildhagen B.
Understanding variations of entanglement and complexity: A way to influence expectations of Service and Systems Oriented Design in public sector

Integrating Systems Design and Behavioral Science to Address a Public Sector Challenge from Within

Bellefontaine Terese, Soliman Monica
ESDC Innovation Lab

Behavioural insights
Program design
Public Sector Innovation

The Canada Learning Bond (CLB) Lab is a systemic design project that was born out of behavioural insights (BI) trials. The integration of BI and systemic design continued to characterize this project as it unfolded, making it a compelling case study on the complimentary of these two disciplines in driving public sector change from within. The Innovation Lab in Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is a Government of Canada innovation unit that engages with Canadians, stakeholders, and internal clients to gather new to develop and experiment with new approaches that are responsive to the needs of Canadians. With the CLB Lab, we embarked on a journey to understand the needs of Canadians living with low income to help increase the uptake of the CLB.

About The Canada Learning Bond

The Government of Canada encourages parents to save for children’s post-secondary education using Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs). This includes the CLB, which is available for eligible children from low income families. When a parent goes to a private RESP provider and opens an RESP for their eligible child, the government will deposit money in the account towards the child’s post-secondary education (Parkin A., 2016). As of 2015, CLB take-up was 33.1%, with 1.8 million children yet to receive it (ESDC, 2015).

Research Approach

BI letter trials had indicated that simple changes to the messaging around the CLB would have limited impact on program uptake (ESDC Innovation Lab, 2017) and led to the conclusion that a system design approach would be an effective approach to understand the complex dynamics surrounding uptake (Richmond B., 1993). To understand this complex challenge, the Lab adopted a systems-level approach, which enabled us to explore the many individual-level and system-level factors that are entwined with parents’ willingness and ability to save for their children’s education. It also enabled us to better understand and consider factors and ideas that traverse program and jurisdictional boundaries. Understanding the challenge required working closely with a broad variety of actors in the system, starting with end-users (Canadian families with low income). The team interviewed people where they felt most comfortable: some welcomed us into their homes where we had conversations over dinner; others met us in community centers and other public spaces. The team met with parents, grandparents, youth, and children, including Canadians living in rural, as well as urban communities, and in First Nations communities. Workshops were held with parents and youth, using innovative techniques to facilitate the conversations surrounding education, decision making, and savings The team also worked closely with other key actors including various government departments, RESP (i.e. financial advisors, financial institutions and scholarship trusts ), not for profit organizations (who promote the program to their clients), teachers, academics, and other subject matter experts. These players were involved at every stage of the process, to leverage system-wide knowledge and insights (Sedlacko M. et al, 2014).

At early stages of research and problem identification, stakeholders were engaged through interviews and workshops to co-develop a systems map. The map centered around three behavioural anchors -motivation, capability, and opportunity- drawing from a behavioural sciences model called ‘The Behavioural Change Wheel’ (Michie S. et al, 2014). This provided a coherent framework for the systems map and enabled identification of leverage points tied to behavioural outcomes. This phase also included a theory of change analysis to make assumptions embedded within the program explicit (Weiss, C. H.,1995), examine evidence pertaining to these assumptions, and identify contextual variables to focus the design thinking inquiry.


Exploring the program and its intent from the perspective of the families it was designed to serve revealed useful design insights:

  1. Awareness is an issue. Clients need to be better informed about what is available to them.
  2. Promoting the CLB requires a multi-sectoral effort.
  3. It’s complicated: the messaging, choices, and process can be overwhelming.
  4. Parents need to feel safe when investing for their children.
  5. Aspiration isn’t enough. The systemic barriers to education are too hard for some families to overcome alone.
  6. People aren’t finding their path. This is resulting in lost potential for themselves and Canadian society.
  7. The needs of the present compete with the needs of the future.
  8. For some, avoiding embarrassment takes precedence over asking for help.
  9. Foundation identification is necessary for full participation in society.

These insights helped us uncover opportunities for shifting the approach. This process enabled us to generate a number of innovative solutions, some incremental and some transformative, that can be tested to see whether they could trigger the desired changes in the system.


By integrating tools and methods from human-centred design, systems thinking, and behavioural insights, the ESDC Innovation Lab championed a holistic approach to understanding the needs of low income Canadians within the Government of Canada. By integrating systemic thinking into our experimentation, ideation, and innovation processes, we nurtured a long-term outlook on the program that adapts to diverse populations over time. The experience of leading a design-based innovation process from within the Government of Canada, in close collaboration with those directly responsible for program delivery, has yielded many lessons in driving change from within. The success of this project and its ability to spark innovation and support meaningful change has been shaped by deliberate attention to deep collaboration, respectful negotiation and mobilization of leadership. By embedding our internal client on the innovation team we developed a key bridge to implementation of ideas. However, systemic design is ideally suited to identify cross-cutting opportunities, and finding a home for implementation of ideas that do not fit discretely in one home organization requires a more extensive search for champions. Nonetheless, our evolving approach is enabling a sustainable and ethical innovation strategy. In doing so, we see change. It is fostering a cultural change in our organization and has sparked conversation across government on the interplay of how we understand our clients, their needs, and the prioritization of sustainable policy frameworks.


ESDC (2015). Canada Education Savings Program (CESP): Summative Evaluation Report.

ESDC Innovation Lab (2017). Canada Learning Bond Nudge Trial: Testing the effectiveness of Behavioral Insights through a promotional mailing.

Michie S, Atkins L, West R. (2014). The Behaviour Change Wheel: A Guide to Designing Interventions. London: Silverback Publishing. Retrieved from: www.behaviourchangewheel.com

Nothing as practical as good theory: Exploring theory-based evaluation for comprehensive community initiatives for children and families. New approaches to evaluating community initiatives: Concepts, methods, and contexts, 1, 65-92.

Richmond, B. (1993). Systems thinking: critical thinking skills for the 1990s and beyond. System Dynamics Review, 9 (2),113–133.

Sedlacko, M., Martinuzzi, A., Røpke, I., Videira, N., & Antunes, P. (2014). Participatory systems mapping for sustainable consumption: Discussion of a method promoting systemic insights. Ecological Economics, 106, 33-43

Parkin, A. (2016). Family savings for post-secondary education: A summary of research on the importance and impact of post-secondary education savings incentive programs. A report prepared for The Omega Foundation.

Weiss, C. H. (1995). Nothing as practical as good theory: Exploring theory-based evaluation for comprehensive community initiatives for children and families. New approaches to evaluating community initiatives: Concepts, methods, and contexts, 1, 65-92.


Click here to download the working paper

Permeating the barriers between the individual and policy designers in Pakistan: a cross-cultural study of women’s mobility

Faiz Komal 1, Woodcock Andree 2, McDonagh Deana 3, Faiz Punnal 4, Adha Binti Nordin Nikmatwal 5,Binti Shamsul Harumain Yong Adilah 6
1,4 DesignPak
2,Coventry University
5,6, University of Malaya
3, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

gender sensitive transport
systems thinking
SUMPs (sustainable urban mobility plans)
WEMOBILE project

The paper provides a case study of WEMOBILE’s activities in Pakistan, which uses a qualitative, design led approach to study perspectives and practices of stakeholders from public, private and civil sectors of society to gender transport poverty. Methods include co- design workshops such as world Cafés, dialogic inquiry, (auto) ethnography (video and audio recording of daily experiences), and surveys. The findings are used to generate a holistic understanding of women’s mobility problems, “to synthesize separate findings into a coherent whole” (Gharajedaghi 2011).

By using an empathic approach, the WEMOBILE project will analyze the contextual ecosystem of women’s mobility in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) through a systemic design lens to comprehend the structural barriers, systemic architecture of the problem, interconnections and linkages with other elements and factors, and the gaps which hinder the effectiveness of existing solutions. The analysis will lead to designed systemic interventions and improvements in the current solutions for policy designers and decision-makers.

WeMobile- Women’s mobility

WEMOBILE (funded by AHRC under the Global Network fund) is a collaborative, international project between UK, Pakistan, Malaysia and US which aims to use empathic and participatory design approaches to enable policy designers and other stakeholders to understand women’s mobility problems in LMICs. Women’s mobility has been recognized as a key issue by the
of women’s mobility in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) through a systemic design will analyze the contextual ecosystem lens to comprehend the structural barriers, systemic architecture of the problem, interconnections and linkages with other elements and factors, and the gaps which hinder the effectiveness of existing solutions. The analysis will lead to designed systemic interventions and improvements in the current solutions for policy designers and decision-makers. United Nations. UN Goals 11 (make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) can be framed as complex issues which ‘cannot be adequately comprehended in isolation from the wider system in which they are part’ (Burns, 2017).

Transport poverty (Lucas, et al, 2016) and the associated, multiple levels of deprivation experienced by women is a wicked problem ( Rittel and Webber, 1973). These are defined as social or cultural problems difficult or impossible to solve, for example, because of incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnectedness with other problems. Woodcock (2012) represented the whole journey experience in terms of a user-centred model which recognised the role of external, social and cultural factors effecting user’s interactions with the system. This did not acknowledge the effects of the system on the user. The potential role of designers as catalysts in this space e.g. in framing problems, bringing disparate parties together (e.g. in focus group
and co-creation activities) and in envisioning solutions in the transport domain has been recognised (Woodcock, 2016). Crucially, an approach is needed to untangle wicked problems, such as gender transport poverty. The paper argues that systemic design research may provide this.

The global investment in sustainable transport measures in response to pollution, congestion, poor health and depletion of earths’ resources has seen a growth in systemic thinking e.g. by linking transport to health, quality of life and accessibility (to key services e.g. education, leisure, and employment and health services). Systemic thinking may be evidence in transport planning (e.g. in the development of urban master plans or SUMPs (sustainable urban mobility plans) in Europe. However, the experience of transport users is still difficult to obtain or incorporate into planning processes. The usefulness of Distributed – Social Impact Assessments (or Gender Impact Assessments) may be curtailed by insufficient resources to conduct such an assessment (especially in smaller schemes), lack of suitable research methods, holistic inquiry, or political will. As such user engagement often fails to rise above level of information on Arnstein’s level of participation (1969) and there is a need to understand the systemic landscape and use better methods of user engagement to develop culturally sensitive, local, sustainable mobility solutions.

WEMOBILE aims to capture and (re)present the problems women in LMICs face in their everyday travel (e.g. from street harassment, to cultural taboos which forbid use of certain forms of transport, to the design and operation of poorly integrated transport services).
Whilst all sectors of society may face such problems, the burden of women is disproportionately higher as they earn less and take on multiple roles (e.g. wage earner, housekeeper and care giver). Mobility issues in LMICs are wicked problems, systemically linked to many socio-political and cultural problems. It is not just about taking longer and more inconvenient ways to make a journey or being denied the ability to make that journey it is the wider implications of this e.g. stress of managing unintegrated journeys, ill health caused by exposure to high levels of pollution whilst walking, injuries sustained while riding side-saddle on motorbikes or by trapped clothing on vehicles. These are systemic issues. The Centre of Economic Research Pakistan survey found that nearly 30% of respondents considered it “extremely unsafe” for women to walk in their neighborhood, and around 70% of male respondents discouraged “female family members from taking public wagon services” (Sajjad et al., 2017). The gender gap in policy designers and transport service providers means that women transport users in LMICs not only do not have a voice, but that there is an urgent need to find new ways of presenting their problems to increase not only gender sensitive transport planning but also to provide methods and information for more human-centered approached to the development of sustainable transport systems.

Pakistan’s Demographics and Safety conditions

According to United Nations, “sixty per cent of the global population lives in Asia (4.4 billion)” (Population, n.d.). The 6th Population Housing Census of Pakistan (Provisional summary, 2017) shows the total population of Pakistan to be 207.7 million, with 106 million (51%) men, 101 million (49%) women, and 10,418 transgender persons. For Punjab (province) there are approximately 1 million more men than women. Lahore, where this study takes place, is the second most populous city with 11.1 million population (Provisional summary, 2017).
“In Punjab, the female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) in 2014-15 was 27.8% as compared to the male LFPR of 69.4%. According to UN Data (Adult literacy rate, n.d.) literacy rate of female aged 15 years and older in 2005 was 35.4% while men age 15+ were at 64.1%. Men have a higher literacy rate and higher participation in the Labour Force.
According to Punjab Gender Parity Report 2018 (Punjab gender, 2018), the total number of vehicles owned were 1,649,044 vehicles in 2017, out of which “1% of vehicles were owned by women and 99% were owned by men.” The licences situation seems to be bleak as well. “While 5.2% of licences were issued to women, only 1% of women had a vehicle registered in their name” (Punjab gender, 2018). These figures clearly show a gender gap in terms of employment across all sectors and in transport (as measured by car ownership. In order to develop a more nuanced understanding of barriers to women’s mobility the WEMOBILE team used interviews and design approaches to understand and characterise women’s journeys.

10 stages of women – a systemic approach

Our analysis develops an understanding of mobility systems and structures using the ‘10 stages of women,’ which divides women into ten age groups. For each age group, the factors of mobility, barriers, primary occupations, and roles differ. Figure 1, below shows stages with their primary occupations and social expectations.

In the dependent phases at the beginning of life, journeys are made to school/universities/offices, meet friends and family, attend events and gatherings, and for shopping. Modes of transportation used are:
• Public transportation: buses primarily
• Rideshare: Careem and Uber
• Private-personal transportation: Personal/Parent’s/Guardian’s cars or motorbikes
• Private-public transportation: Rikshaw, Chingchi, Taxi
Mobility barriers include:
• high dependency on others which limits freedom and independence and thus their exposure and growth. Same aged males have a fair amount of independence to walk to destinations, socialize with friends on the streets or play outside the house.
• Exposure to unsafe modes of transportation: harassment, rape, discomfort,
kidnapping and human trafficking, murder
• Unable to walk or bicycle on the streets due to cultural and societal norms.
• Cultural norms which restrict women from leaving the house or from working
• Start of the influence of the dual role of women in terms of earners and domestic workers. No matter what kind of work they do, they are expected to fulfil all responsibilities of the house.

Figure 2 shows the characteristics of the self-sustaining phase in terms of transportation options, barriers, and leverage points.
The transportation options for women in different stages and the barriers, fears, and limitations they face is summarised in Figure 3.

Although he government supports projects such as safe cities, metro bus services, women on wheels and others, their role is fairly limited. The biggest gap in these interventions is the disconnect with other gender related issues and efforts associated with mobility e.g. bus services are improved but harassment issues are not addressed. Moreover, there are disconnects in the interventions by the three sectors i.e. private, public, and government due to lack of collaborations and discrediting each other’s work instead of building upon them. Figure 4. illustrates this.


To conclude, the system largely lacks a gender sensitive and user-centered approach, data, and holistic strategies which connecting solutions to the resolution of issues across the domain. System archetypes such as “shifting the burden”, “fixes that fail”, and “limits to success” (Braun, 2002) exist causing ideas and plans to fail in achieving the desired impact. To address a systemic design research approach can enable sectors to to collaborate to form holistic strategies and implementation plans, dividing responsibilities and financial burdens. Stakeholders will have to be involved at every stage, empowering them to participate with not only suggestions but also actions.


Arnstein, S. R. (1969) A Ladder of Citizen Participation, JAIP, 35, 4, July, 216-224

Braun, W. (2002). The system archetypes. System, 2002, 27.

Burns, D. (2007) Systemic Action Research, Policy Press

Fulton, S.J. (2003) Empathic design: Informed and inspired by other people’s experience. In: Koskinen I, Battarbee K, Mattelmäki T. (eds). Empathic design: User experience in product design. Helsinki, Finland: IT Press.

Gharajedaghi, J. (2011) Systems thinking: Managing chaos and complexity: A platform for designing business architecture. Elsevier.

Lucas, K., Mattioli, G., Verlinghieri, E. and Guzman, A. (2016) Transport poverty and its adverse social consequences. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Transport, 169 (6). pp. 353-365.

Population. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2018, from http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/population/

Provisional summary results of 6th population and housing census. (2017). Retrieved December 14, 2018, from http://www.pbs.gov.pk/content/provisional-summary-results-6th-population-and-housing-census-2017-0

Punjab gender parity report 2018(Rep.). (2018). Retrieved from https://pcsw.punjab.gov.pk/research_publications

Rittel, H.W. J. and Webber, M. M. (1973). “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”, Policy Sciences. 4: 155–169

Sajjad, F., Anjum, G. A., Field, E., & Vyborny, K. (2017). Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Mobility. Retrieved from http://cdpr.org.pk/images/publications/cities/Overcoming-Barriers-to-Womens-Mobility-Extended-Brief.pdf

Adult literacy rate. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2018, from http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?q=Literacy pakistan&d=GenderStat&f=inID:49;crID:124

Women’s Safety Audit in Public Transport in Lahore(Rep.). (2018). Retrieved from

Woodcock, A. (2012) User-centred transport design and user needs In Tovey, M. (ed.). Design for Transport: A User-Centred Approach to Vehicle Design and Travel. Ashgate, p. 21-69

Woodcock, A. (2012), The opportunity for design led transport futures, Design Research Society (DRS) International Conference 2012; “Re:Search”, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. 1–4 July 2012


Click here to download the working paper

Turin Food Atlas. Sharing knowledge towards urban food policies to develop circular cities

Fassio Franco 1, Tecco Nadia 2
1, University of Gastronomic Sciences
2, University of Turin

Policy Design
Systemic Design
Food System
Territorial Metabolism


Urban policies and urban planning progressively acknowledged food as a fundamental issue of the urban system and as a tool for design synergies. Among other cities, Turin is moving toward an urban food strategy, gathering in an integrated perspective many practices and policies from local authorities, market actors and food movements. Universities (University of Turin, Politecnico of Turin, University of Gastronomic Science) play various role in this perspective, both in promoting and supporting policies and practices, both producing, collecting (among the different food actors at the local level) and sharing knowledge about how the actual urban food system that nourish Turin works. That is necessary background to go further in defining goals and targets for a food policy at the local- metropolitan level. The Atlas of Food of Metropolitan Turin (Atlante del Cibo di Torino Metropolitana) is a project developed by three universities: University of Turin, University of Gastronomic Science, and Polytechnic of Turin. It is an original, trans-disciplinary, ambitious research project, collecting and producing different kinds of materials (texts, visuals, maps), from various sources (academic research, mass media, etc.). All the knowledge produced and collected by the Atlas of Food is used to analyse and represent the Metropolitan Turin food system, in order to support public policies and private initiatives.


The core of the project is the development of a methodology of analysis of urban food systems based on the realization of a multimedia, interactive, participated Atlas of Food, centred on the metropolitan city of Turin. The Atlas of food collects and organizes information and data about the food system at the metropolitan scale (the former province of Turin). The online web platform of the Atlas (www.atlantedelcibo.it) presents the collected and newly produced, in the form of maps, and visual and textual materials, searchable and partially editable by the web community and by the actors of the food system. Data are participatory regularly updated, basing the methodologies of civic participatory mapping of First Life, the civic map-based social network used for the participatory mapping activities of the Atlas of Food. Scales of the analysis and of the representation of the food system vary according to the treated issues, coherently with the transcalarity of food flows and networks. This flexible spatial approach helps in the understanding the complexity of the food system and the connections between its multiple parts in and around the urban milieu (according to the systemic approach).

General goal and specific objectives

The general goal of the project is to develop and implement an interdisciplinary methodology of food system analysis and assessment, at the metropolitan scale, through traditional charts and maps, participatory mapping and a strict relationship with social networks, for field action. The Atlas of Food of Turin, has the following specific aims:

  • to provide an open access tool, collecting and representing data, information and ideas about the food system at the city-region scale;
  • to support the public-private network which is working at the establishment of a food commission, through analysis of the food system, development of scenarios and suggestions for the food strategies, design solutions aiming at the enhancement of sustainability, equity, participation and resilience of the food system;
  • to increase the awareness of the actors of the food web about food, fostering the visibility and sharing of the issues linked to the different phases of the food chain;
  • to provide a platform where the stronger and weaker actors of the food chain can virtually meet, reciprocally know, share ideas, creating an opinion making critical mass able to address food policies;
  • to monitor the food system regularly with a participatory approach, reporting changes, trends, opportunities and threats.

Expected results and spill-overs on the metropolitan food system

The Atlas of Food can support the development of a resilient urban (food) system, because it stimulates the creation of a consistent database and repository of information about it.
The research group carries out this work in strict collaboration with public authorities and agencies, other research bodies, private businesses, NGOs and other community groups. This variety of public and private actors helps to guarantee the reliability, the transparency and the regular update of the information presented by the website. The participatory approach concerns not only the data collection, but also the elaboration of development and policy scenarios, towards the planning of an efficient, resilient, fair and sustainable metropolitan food system, where food and its connections a role of social, economic and cultural capital.

Progress of the research

The first Report on the state of the Metropolitan Turin Food System, produced within the framework of the Atlas of Food, was presented in May 2017.
It is divided into three main sections: a) a review of already existing maps and representations about the food system (a map of maps), which are critically reviewed and organized, in order to produce a catalogue of the different existing representations; b) a collection of static maps, specifically produced for the atlas, representing data about the food system coming both from official archives (e.g. census) and from users and actors of the food system. The static maps will be open to updates and corrections, following the suggestions of users; c) a platform for users-generated, dynamic, interactive maps, based on crowd mapping and the integration with social networks.
It provides a first cross-cutting and integrated reading of the main features of the metropolitan food system.

For the RSD7 conference, the goal of the research is to represent the evolution of the food system in Turin at the metropolitan scale, especially in the perspective in which the systemic approach could help to design a new economic model: a Circular Economy perspective that has the aim to define better the role of the food for the Circular Cities.

Planning activity from the Atlas of Food data collection: RePopp

By overlapping the analysis of the recovery system and redistribution of food surpluses for social purposes with the production of food waste from different forms of distribution (Large Organised Distribution, neighbourhood stores, markets, farmers’ market and GAS), the Atlas of Food pointed out a potential leeway of intervention for new ways of value creation and optimisation.

Once identified the critical hotspot and source of leakages in city district markets, the attention has been focused on the market of Porta Palazzo, the largest outdoor European market. Here the City of Turin, two companies Novamont and Amiat/Iren Group, Association Eco delle Città, with the scientific coordination of the University of Gastronomic Sciences has developed the project RePopp – Porta Palazzo Organic Project. By applying the Circular Economy principles to the fruit and vegetable market and with the involvement of the “Sentinelle dei rifiuti” (Waste’s sentries) and the “Ecomori” (asylum seekers volunteers), food surpluses are every day (from Monday to Saturday) recovered from the market stalls, stocked in a stall granted free of charge by the municipality and redistributed by filling and redistributing fruit and vegetables crates, in order to satisfy the demand of a family of 3 persons for two days, considering the quantitative and the nutritional needs. Along with the recovery and redistribution of food surpluses, RePopp works to increase awareness and education to differentiate properly the organic waste with a widespread campaign of communication, to provide civic and environmental information for asylum seekers, to create activity of entertainment about food waste and integration. The project also aimed at encouraging a good integration of asylum seekers thanks to the daily and direct relationship with market operators and the creation of a network in solidarity with the beneficiaries of food surpluses. Since the beginning of 2018, 50,170 kg of food have been collected.

In 2018, the project obtained a special mention from the international prize Milan Pact Awards, created to supports new urban food systems and stimulate the exchange of practices and learning between signatory cities within the frame of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP); RePopp won the “food waste” section as example of “Circular Markets, an efficient waste collection system for the largest and most culturally diverse food market in the city and the largest open air market in Europe. The project highlights the relevance of data collection from different sources and food areas to design new solutions and alternatives.

Constitutional Realism and Sustainability: Lessons Learned From a Systemic Design Investigation of New Zealand’s Democratic System

Feast Luke

Constitutional design
Policy design
Transition design

It is not common to think of democratic regimes as designed objects. The connection between design activity and the stuff people consume is more obvious than the connection between design activity and the system through which a people governs itself. However, it is also clear that implementing the transition towards sustainability is both a matter of material production and political will. Recently Ezio Manzini identified the connection between design, democracy and sustainability when he argued that since democracy is a resilient system it is the only regime in which we can imagine a sustainable future society [1].
This paper reports on a systemic design project that investigates the network of influence between New Zealand’s democratic system and its transition to sustainability. New Zealand is a sovereign state that includes a territory in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, a nation of 4.9 million people, and a system of government that is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. By most international standards, New Zealand appears to be stable, well governed, and committed to a climate resilient future. If New Zealand cannot make sustainability work, then the chance of larger industrialised countries making it is even slimmer. Examining the lessons yielded from the analysis of New Zealand’s situation outlines some of the challenges of sustainability more generally.
This paper takes a constitutional realist theoretical perspective to identify the entities that influence how public power is exercised in New Zealand [2]. Constitutional realists attempt to understand the whole system by examining not only the texts that codify constitutional laws but also the structures, principles, conventions and even culture that form the ways in which public power is exercised. Constitutional realism and systemic design share the commitment to analysing the whole system in context and the aim of synthesising information across disciplines and scales [3].
New Zealand presents the image of a ‘clean and green’ environment, but it is debatable how accurately this image depicts reality. For example, rapid intensification of agriculture has caused nitrogen pollution of many of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes. Similarly, New Zealand presents the image of a progressive Western democracy, but in reality New Zealand’s political system is rather peculiar. New Zealand does not have a written, codified constitution that sets out the basic rules and values under which New Zealand governs itself [4]. New Zealand is one of only three countries in the world that has an ‘unwritten’ constitution; the other two countries being Israel and the United Kingdom. Much of the New Zealand constitution is in the form of unwritten conventions and norms. Consequently, New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements are flexible and constantly evolving.
Scholars might see this incremental approach to constitutional design as a strength; after all, they could argue that an unwritten constitution is an ‘agile’ system that can more easily be adapted to suit the changing needs of the society. Similar arguments are found in design research regarding sociotechnical system design, for example Don Norman and JP Stappers have argued that incrementalism is the best approach for dealing with complex problems such as sustainability [5].
An unwritten constitution was fine when New Zealand was a smaller country and we agreed on many things. But the New Zealand of today is larger and more diverse than it was 50 years ago. Back then, elections provided adequate security against misrule and there was less need for further checks and balances on public power. Now New Zealand faces big disruptive policy changes, such as the transition towards sustainability, that require a framework of government that can meet the “needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”? [6]. Therefore, the key question that this project seeks to answer is, What constitutional system can balance short-term incrementalism with the long-term commitment to sustainability?
New Zealand is not immune to international political trends, such as Brexit and Trumpism, that are changing how democracies function. The New Zealand style of government is already authoritarian and the trace of colonialism remains in its constitutional structures. New Zealander’s rights and freedoms could wither away without greater controls and oversight on government power. We need a constitutional system that is resilient to the shocks and emergencies that we already know about and those that we cannot foresee. In this paper I argue that New Zealand has reached a point in time where it needs a codified constitution that is easy to access and use. We need to be able to increase understanding about how our government actually works and what are the rights and freedoms of individuals in our democracy. Furthermore, these rights should include environmental rights that secure ecologically sustainable development and protect the environment for present and future generations.
My arguments for constitutional change draw on the outputs of a GIGA-mapping project that aims to visualise New Zealand’s ‘unwritten’ constitutional system. GIGA-mapping is a systemic design technique that maps a system visually to reveal relationships and issues that may be difficult to see when the subject matter is explained in words or numbers alone [7]. The project draws on research that identified 80 constitutional elements found in various New Zealand government acts, laws, treaties, conventions and instruments [8]. The GIGA-map then situates these constitutional elements within the broader context of New Zealand’s sociotechnical system. The map visualises the entities that have significant impact on the system but are not considered as formal parts of the constitution, for example pressure groups, media and political parties. This approach enables the resilience of the system to be judged as a whole.
Visualising New Zealand’s ‘unwritten’ constitutional system within its broader sociotechnical context will help to secure understanding of the interdependencies between political power and sustainability. With this understanding New Zealander’s can implement a programme of democratic renewal and policy design for sustainability.


Manzini, E. (2017, February 2). The politics of everyday life: How to implement a design-based collaborative democracy. Lecture presented at CMU School of Design. Retrieved 10 May 2018 from https://youtu.be/s-KL1zSpr2E

Palmer, M. (2006). Using Constitutional Realism to Identify the Complete Constitution: Lessons from an Unwritten Constitution. The American Journal of Comparative Law, 54(3), 587-636. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20454508

Ryan, A. (2014). A Framework for Systemic Design. FormAkademisk – Research Journal of Design and Design Education, 7(4). https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.

Palmer, G. & Butler, A. (2018). Towards democratic renewal: Ideas for constitutional change in New Zealand. Victoria University Press, Wellington.

Norman, D. A., & Stappers, P. J. (2015). DesignX: Complex Sociotechnical Systems. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 1(2), 83-106. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sheji.2016.01.002

World Commission on Environment and Development (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P.43

Sevaldson, B. (2011). Giga-mapping: Visualisation for complexity and systems thinking in design. Nordic Design Research Conference, Helsinki.

Palmer, Matthew S. R. (2006). What is New Zealand’s constitution and who interprets it?: Constitutional realism and the importance of public office-holders. 7 Public Law Review 133

Smart specialization in non-metro canadian regions

Mastroeni Michele
OCAD Universit

Regional Innovation
Policy Design
Strategy Design
Rural development
Non-metropolitan development
Evolutionary Institutionalism

Canadian and provincial governments have had science, technology and innovation policies since 1968 (Doern et al, 2016), but with mixed results in spurring business innovation and commercialization (Jenkins et al, 2011). Furthermore, Canada’s strengths in the primary and resource sectors, and the non- metropolitan regions that host them, have been overlooked by innovation policy in favour of sectors usually associated with urban centres (e.g. ICT, biotechnology) (ibid). Non-metro regions represent one third of Canada’s population and employment, and over one third of GDP (FCM, 2016). Non-metro regions face challenges in terms of demographic change and decline, price fluctuations on primary goods, and declines in manufacturing and agricultural employment (CRRF, 2015). Such regions would benefit from tailored innovation strategies to update existing sectors and create new economic niches, countering outmigration and the view that rural areas are now more places of consumption rather than production, and to expand production beyond single-commodities (OECD, 2007). This paper will propose the theoretical basis and justification for a framework to design innovation strategies for non- metro communities The framework will aim to deal with the social and environmental challenges these communities are facing, as well as rejuvenate/diversify their local economies.

Non-Metro Regions: Europe and Canada

In both the EU and Canada, and in contrast to urban regions, non-metropolitan regions face a series of limitations that make I tmore difficult to have the type of economic growth associated with innovation and technology sectors, and which make the regenation of traditional industries different. They do not have the agglomeration of services and activities that enhance economies of scale, nor is there proximity between a larger number of actors to facilitate knowledge exchange (Ashton et al, 2016; Culver et al, 2015; Doloreaux and Dionne, 2008; Hall et al, 2014; Naldi et al, 2015). Lower levels of capital and fewer experienced entrepreneurs exist in non-metro regions, while these same regions can be buffeted by global market forces due to the prominence of primary/resource sectors (Doloreaux and Shearmur, 2006). Furthermore, while the literature generally portrays research intensive Post-secondary institutions (PSIs) as important catalysts of innovation (Doutriaux, 2003; Wolfe, 2005), non-metropolitan regions in Canada tend not to have the most research intensive PSIs in their community (i.e. U15). Where PSI institutions do conduct R&D, they must balance between conducting research with interests from outside the local community for reputational gain with providing knowledge for a community that may have lower levels of absorptive capacity/abilities to use the research produced (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990; Kempton, 2015). What non-metropolitan regions require, and would lead to smart innovation policies, is a localized evolutionary and co-generative approach, which should be better able to engage local stakeholders than past policy attempts (e.g. EU LEADER programme; Dargan and Schucksmith, 2008).

Innovation, RIS3 and Regional Development

Innovation is the application of new products, processes, services and organizational methods for commercial or social purposes (OECD, 2005). Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialization (RIS3) is a policy approach developed in Europe (EC-IIPTS, 2011; Foray at al, 2009; OECD, 2013) to foster regional development in a way that: a) leverages the R&D strengths in science and technology across multiple regions; and b) applies them in contextually appropriate ways to enhance local socio-economic productivity. As initially developed, however, RIS3 would not be able to deal with the likely gaps in entrepreneurial skill and low innovation system development in many non- metropolitan regions (Teras et al, 2015); this paper will recommend the necessary adjustments.
RIS3 was developed to address uneven regional development in Europe with the idea that cutting edge General Purpose Technologies (GPTs – e.g. nanotech, biotech, information tech) would be developed in regions with strong R&D (e.g. Cambridge, UK; Basel, Switzerland); and regions with less advanced R&D capacity could then develop GPT applications for sectors in their local economy, leading to more efficient use of research and innovation investments (Barca, 2009; Foray et al, 2009). Further, RIS3’s focus on local knowledge strengths, and pulling knowledge into the region for local needs, would aid Canadian non-metro regions.

I have critiqued RIS3 and propose a dynamic, evolutionary and socially inclusive institutional approach (Mastroeni, 2016; Mastroeni et al, 2013; Rosiello et al, 2015). I frame market changes and policy implementation as a series of consecutive events, with system evolution shaped either by agent activity or institutional influence (Carlsson and Stankiewicz 1991; Mastroeni et al, 2013; Teubal 1997). I further describe four features:
The first is the framework’s ability to deal with complexity and uncertainty. The complexity stems from regional economies having context-specific challenges different to each other, and the wide variety of stakeholders across different industries interacting and exchanging knowledge. Adding an evolutionary approach would keep system-complexity and regional specificity at the forefront of analysis.
The second is in contrast to the original RIS3’s assumption that private sector entrepreneurs will be present locally to identify opportunities for innovative application of knowledge and GPTs (Foray et al, 2009). In non-metro communities, skilled entrepreneurs and the support-structures that aid them may not be fully developed (McCann and Ortega-Argiles, 2011). Equally, public sector ability to enact change cannot be assumed (e.g. lack of resources, competence, will). Instead, all community members are potential entrepreneurs, emphasising multi-stakeholder dialogue (Mastroeni et al, 2013).
The third looks to avoid too much specialization (Asheim et al, 2011; Saviotti and Pyka, 2008) as too little economic variety reduces a system’s resilience to change (Cooke, 2009). The adjusted framework instead encourages “related variety,” new economic activity formed by new (re)combinations of knowledge held in the community (Asheim and Grillitsch, 2015; Mastroeni et al, 2013).
The fourth promotes strengthened communication and trust relationships between stakeholders, improving knowledge exchange and collaboration to address the uncertainty in the innovation process (Gertler and Wolfe, 2004; Langlois and Robertson, 1995; Morgan, 2007).

Evolutionary RIS3

The theoretical framework will include two heuristics/tools and a foresight method respectively: an
Evolutionary Life Cycle (ELC), Innovation Matrix (IM) and Three Horizons foresight method.

The ELC heuristic frames innovation systems as moving through different phases: a background/pre-entrepreneurial phase, a pre-emergence/launching phase, and an emergence phase (i.e. critical mass) (Avnimelech and Teubal 2008; Rosiello et al, 2013).
Movement through phases is determined by the region’s ability to provide a set of functions such as research and development, skill building and access
to training, commercialization, and finance (see figure 1). Since an innovation strategy would not be able to realistically correct all weak system functions simultaneously, the ELC helps determine what the system weaknesses are, and the timing as to what functions to address first.
The IM was used in the region of Bavaria by Bayen Innovative, a governance agency for regional development (Cooke and Eriksson, 2011). The IM was used to identify “adjacent possible” areas of innovative activity, i.e. new niches for economic activity combining the knowledge needs with the knowledge strengths of different regional stakeholders in unexpected ways. It does so by laying out different economic activities that are important to the region along the y axis, and the knowledge that is being developed and/or available to the region along the x axis). Community stakeholders, including local PSIs, add their insights to the matrix (not limited to a 2×2 structure) through round-table discussions or interviews, and in the process have their contributions scrutinized by other stakeholders. In our framework, it will help analyze knowledge complementarities in non-metro regions, combining that of participants in established industries, local PSI, and some extra-regional participants to identify potential knowledge complementarities and synergy leading to innovation.

The Three Horizons foresight method will also be applied (figure 2). It maps shifts from the established, status quo patterns of social and economic activity (Horizon 1), towards new ways of doing things to better fit the changing regional conditions (Horizon 3), through a transitional stage that responds to the short-comings of the present (Horizon 2) (Sharpe, 2013; Sharpe and Hodgson, 2014). The Three Horizons approach helps identify potential areas of conflict in the transition from H1 to H3, and helps to facilitate positive rather than conflicting interactions amongst these interests. Three Horizons can be used for a variety of forward looking timelines (5 yrs, 20 yrs, etc.), can help to plan action attempting to reach a desired future, and is relatively easy to explain and teach to community stakeholders/participants.

A Systems Approach to Sustainability in Space

Mehta Neel, Richard Christopher, Raut Shubham, Nahar Praveen
National Institute of Design, India

Global cooperation
Speculative scenarios
Generative conversation
Sustainability of Space age
Interdisciplinary research
Participatory Design
Dialogue in System Oriented Design
Regulatory innovation
Responsibility Assessment
Design Thinking for Space

Man has been fascinated by space since the beginning of civilization. There have been major advancements made in this field over many years. But if history has been witness to anything, it is that, for every advancement we’ve made, we’ve left something behind. Space missions over the past many decades have left behind over 7500 tonnes of debris in orbit. But it is still a problem which is out of sight, hence out of mind.
There are millions of objects in space, most of which are too small to be able to track. Recent trends show that the number of launches are increasing each year. Thus, the amount of debris is only going to increase. This problem is a complex one since space is a global resource, and there is no central authority to keep a check on it. Satellites play such an important role in all aspects of our lives, that a threat to them is a threat to our current way of life.

Over the years, there have been inter country disputes, increased tensions and unchecked misuse of space. The president of United States recently announced that Space is a place for war. If this problem is to be solved, there has to be cooperation at a global scale. Major policy changes and space laws need to be implemented in this field, along with co-operation on a large scale. Fifty years back, everyone was dumping plastic into the oceans, thinking that they were so large that a few bottles won’t make a difference. Now, there are huge islands of ocean plastic floating in the Pacific. Space debris is very similar to this problem, and we are at the advantage of not having gone too far yet.

As designers, we may not have all the answers, but we can ask the right questions. Systems thinking allows us to associate seemingly unrelated aspects of the problem, and connect people from different fields. We have the advantage of looking at the entire picture in a holistic and unbiased way.
A problem as complex as this needs intervention at multiple levels. It is a problem that is going to have major repercussions in the coming years, and needs foresight, which we attempt to add through this project. Through this project, we are expanding the boundaries of design. Design thinking is rarely used in the space industry and employing it on a system level is what is needed to solve the problem of space debris.

As part of the project, we met with professionals, engineering students, policy makers, academicians and researchers. We organised co-creation workshops with school kids as well as scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Dividing the scientists into groups based on temporal scenarios, such as ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’, we came up with diverse solutions. We drew connections at each stage. We translated the raw ideas that kids came up with to tackle space debris into feasible solutions, using scientists’ expertise. We collated data from multiple primary, first hand sources and used it to come up with solutions.

Due to the importance of policies in solving a problem as huge as space debris, we developed a first draft of a national policy for space debris. The policy lays down the guidelines to be followed by any space agency operating within the country. It also proposes maintaining a registry of space objects in orbit. It suggests a method to carry out threat assessment of a particular space debris. We also introduced a credit system for all space operators within India. This policy not only regulates private and public parties of the space industry, but also give guidelines for possible future scenarios. A major aspect of space debris as a problem is that relatively less people know about it. Even within the science community, many people know about the problem, but aren’t working towards it.

There is a need for awareness among the masses. The more people know and understand the problem, the more brains working towards it. As designers, we can act as facilitators to promote awareness and dialogue about the topic. To do this, we developed the character of ‘Satellite girl’ and made a comic series, showing the effects of Kessler’s syndrome and how it can devastate the 21st century world. We developed two directions of speculative scenarios; A utopian future showing how global cooperation can bring about a positive change for mankind through space technology, and a dystopian future, that shows the after effects of a Kessler’s syndrome.

The final systems intervention in the subject was in the form of solutions. Talking to people, employing co-design methodologies and iterating on ideas helped us to come up with potential solutions to help tackle space debris. These solutions could be as basic as redesigning a satellite to as complex as changing the whole system of how we launch and collect satellites. This is an ongoing project, and we hope to use systems thinking in more innovative ways to tackle this issue on multiple levels. We plan to pitch our policy draft to law experts, our ideas to ISRO and our awareness campaigns to publishing houses. We will be following up on our previous stakeholders and constantly contacting many more. We also intend to propose a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) model for space flights.

We would like to visualize all the different aspects of Space and sustainability and make people aware about the problem at hand. We want to create a common platform for people from different expertise levels to come together to solve this wicked problem. Democratization of space is something that our project also has in mind. We hope that this project will give enough clarity and push to the right people in the right direction, so that we can start working towards solving the issue. By clearly stating the future steps and sustainability opportunities, we hope to not repeat our past mistakes.


https://www.thecosmiccorner.com/ (The project blog with all the necessary information)





Eco-Social Transformations: Leading Principles and Generative Forces

Metzner-Szigeth Andreas
Free University of Bozen, Italy

Sustainable development
Innovation strategies
Design principles
Transformative science
Organizational cultures
Personal resources

According to the UN there is need to attain 17 heterogeneous goals with 169 different targets in order to reach sustainable development. Is this programme strong enough to become successful? The decisive point for assessing its quality is whether it offers only a catalogue of demands or an integrated concept. Satisfying human needs whilst respecting the limits of the biosphere with future-capable forms and rates of production and consumption are of central importance. But an alternative approach to civilizational progress has to outline as well that kind of eco-social transformations by which these requirements could be realized. Major transitions of this type should be multi-dimensional. They have to provide the capacity of simultaneously altering several dimensions of human life: social and ecological as well as economic and political.

Re-directing human progress cannot be done by means of superior ethics and good will alone. Instead, effective forms of management and governance are required. Realizing sustainable development in practice takes place under conditions of targeting-conflicts about priorities, utilization competences about resources as well as divergent interests and contrasting visions of how “our common future” should look like. Facing “great challenges” of humankind therefore means tailoring well-designed interventions in the ongoing dynamics of existing patterns: in communicative culture as well as in material culture, in the organizational sphere as well as in the technological sphere.

Two promising research perspectives working on the development of solutions for the above framed problems concern leading principles and generative forces. With leading principles for eco-social transformations the emphasis is on efficiency, sufficiency and consistency. They respond to different groundings and favour distinct instruments. They are supported by different arguments and seem to be excluding each other, as suggested by the semantics of “hard” and “soft” sustainability. We can understand them as strategies that are competing for attention on the public agenda: for being accepted and having the chance to become converted into practice. Besides focussing on the advantages of a balanced approach further research and development (above all in “sustainability science” itself) should concentrate on delivering fresh understandings and novel concepts like the cradle-to-cradle approach.

The guiding question for this research perspective reads:
How to combine these strategies with effective principles of design such as to enable far reaching transformations in material culture and social life?
The other research perspective deals with generative forces that link valuable personal resources like awareness, imagination and motivation to institutional transactions and social change. The social sciences provide three well-known categories: actors, cultures and systems. What kind of conditions and drivers for eco-social transformations can be identified within these contexts? How do they correlate with generative forces?

After giving an overview we will focus on the field of organizational cultures and their relationship to generative forces. Here, they are stimulating creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, finding novel solutions to old problems and other understandings of conflicts, that may lead to new beginnings and vital reforms. Approaches for utilizing generative forces in this field (that is: mobilizing and organizing them in multiple arrangements like innovation hubs, business theatre or systemic constellation work and world cafés) are now originating from sources as different as academic innovation research, professional consultancy practice as well as civil society movements. Of special interest here are artistic installations and performances (resuming ideas of anthropological art and social plastic) because they have a unique capacity of opening horizons and transcending limitations while intervening in public spaces of urban life-worlds as well as private enterprises and public administrations within functionally organized labour-worlds. As guiding questions for this second research perspective we can note:
How can we identify and understand generative forces? Which are their general characteristics and which peculiar traits can be observed? What are viable forms of evoking and expressing them in order for them to flourish in eco-social transformations?

Making use of generative forces to enable and facilitate purposes seems to be easy. But first of all we have to satisfy one precondition: becoming more sensitive and capable to perceive and recognize them, tracing their signature within the turbulent climate of modern world.
Hence, my contribution to RSD7 will neither offer fixed understandings of problems nor stubborn repetitions of common solutions. Instead, the focus lies on outlining fresh perspectives for doing research and development as well as on sharing insights and seeking partners for organizing sparkling dialogues and future collaborations.


Metzner, A. (1998) ‘Constructions of environmental issues in scientific and public discourse’, in Müller, F. and Leupelt, M. (Eds.): Eco Targets, Goal Functions and Orientors, Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg/New York, pp.312–333.

Metzner-Szigeth, A. (2009) ‘Contradictory approaches? – on realism and constructivism in the social sciences research on risk, technology and the environment’, Futures, Vol. 41, No. 2, March, pp.156–170.

Metzner-Szigeth, A. (2011) ‘Key issues of integrative technology assessment’, in Banse, G., Nelson, G. and Parodi, O. (Eds.): Sustainable Development – The Cultural Perspective, Edition Sigma, Berlin, pp.77–108.

Metzner-Szigeth, A. (2014) ‘Utilisation Competitions over Ecological Resources – Uncovering the Social Nature of the Environmental Problem’, in Progress in Industrial Ecology – An International Journal, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2014, pp.237–256.

Integration of multiple approaches into the social lab practice. A case study from a social and public innovation lab in new Brunswick, Canada.

Muirhead Lewis 1, Mosse Rosamund 2, Hachey Amanda 3, Scott Nick 4
1, 2, 3, NouLAB
4, Government of New Brunswick

Art of Hosting and Harvesting
Social Innovation Labs
Theory U
Google Sprint
Participatory engagement
Policy development
Public Sector Innovation
PSI Labs
Human Centered Design
Developmental Evaluation
Systems Thinking

New Brunswick is expected to have the worst economic growth out of the ten provinces in Canada in 2018 (Jones 2018). Passed over by large resource projects and hit hard by the collapse of the cod fishery in the early 1990s, the province is currently experiencing a wide range of societal and demographic challenges as a result. At the same time, New Brunswick’s population is both aging and in decline. The first wave of Baby Boomers are retiring and there aren’t enough people to fill the jobs that will be coming available. This has triggered the province to undertake an unprecedented immigration challenge to offset the coming workforce losses . This demographic trend is being witnessed in rural areas across the developed world with ever declining birth rates leading to population decline.

The recent uptake of public sector innovation labs by multiple jurisdictions across Canada raises the question of how to integrate their findings into the milieu of traditional policy development (McGann, Blomkamp, and Lewis 2018; Westley et al. 2015). Bringing people together and holding productive conversations is at the heart of how social labs deliver value. To do this effectively various practices from the methodology known as The Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter (AoH) have been employed by New Brunswick’s Social and Public

Innovation Lab, NouLAB. This proposed paper will look at how engaging multiple stakeholders – including public servants – with a variety of tools in a participatory process can improve outcomes in policy development across New Brunswick. Engagingnon-traditional policy actors in the design process requires strategies taken from a variety of disciplines. NouLAB uses tools from AoH as well as Theory U, Human Centered Design, Systems Thinking, Google Sprint and Social Labs methods in order to to build lab experiences and to frame the issue at hand (Hassan 2014; Scharmer 2009). Lessons from this process can potentially be applied across jurisdictions worldwide.

NouLAB, New Brunswick’s Social and Public Innovation Lab was developed out of the need for new approaches to tackle complex, systemic challenges. NouLAB is housed under the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick, giving it an outsider view to government and allowing it to ‘hold disruptive potential’ (Tõnurist et al. 2017, 16). Across the province, challenges ranging from nursing shortages, rural revitalization, housing for individuals with complex needs, poverty reduction, and others have been undertaken by the NouLAB facilitation team.

In September 2017 the first multi-year standing lab undertaken by NouLAB was launched on the topic of Economic Immigration (“Economic Immigration Lab || NouLAB”). The first cycle lasted four months and produced eight prototypes, each with unique contributions to answering the question of ‘How might we attract, welcome and retain newcomers to contribute to the New Brunswick economy?’ The second cycle, completed in mid-April 2018, focused in on the themes of employer support and newcomer integration. For this cycle, a five-day Google Sprint-inspired format was taken. Teams came in pre-formed and with an issue related to immigration. The implementation of this Google-developed format on social issues presented an opportunity for learning for the NouLAB team. Overlaying the skills of Art of Hosting, Systems Thinking, Theory U and more, teams were able to frame their problem, develop a prototype with input across sectors and test it on users within five days.

These two cycles are now complete and the tracking of the prototypes is underway. Using a developmental evaluation approach to determine the experience of the participants and the success of the prototypes, the NouLAB team aims to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the hybrid approach that constitutes their social lab practice (Patton 2010). The facilitators’learning curve to establish group norms, support diverse participation, identify power and privilege, and work towards agreed upon objectives within teams are topics that have significant importance to the field of social labs (Quick and Sandfort 2014). Of specific interest is how public policy is being influenced by the government employees’ learning and capacity building within the lab. The personal transformation journey has been identified as the biggest leverage point to change the system. In accordance with Theory U’s Iceberg Model of systems change (Scharmer 2009), values and beliefs are where change can be most easily impacted by individuals in complex systems. This change is tracked through the new relationships formed in lab processes and multi-sectoral teams that continue beyond formal lab engagements and workshops. Surveys and reports to track changes through time are carefully maintained through the NouLAB’s evaluation process.

Our paper will discuss: the disruptive potential of NouLAB as a Public and Social Innovation Lab, situated as a programme of the Pond Deshpande Centre at UNB, the role of participatory and reflective practices and the transformative journey of the individual as paramount to the process of systems change, and our learnings from the establishment of NouLAB’s hybrid approach to running a Social Lab.


“Economic Immigration Lab || NouLAB.” n.d. Economic Immigration Lab | New Brunswick | NouLAB. Accessed April 27, 2018. http://www.economicimmigrationlab.org.

Jones, Robert. 2018. “N.B. Economic Growth Expected to Be Worst of 10 Provinces in 2018 | CBC News.” CBC. February 12, 2018. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/economic-growth-worst-among-provinces-2018-1.4530882.

Hassan, Zaid. 2014. The Social Labs Revolution: A New Approach to Solving Our Most Complex Challenges.Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

McGann, Michael, Emma Blomkamp, and Jenny M. Lewis. 2018. “The Rise of Public Sector Innovation Labs: Experiments in Design Thinking for Policy.” Policy Sciences, March, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-018-9315-7.

Patton, Michael Quinn. 2010. Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use.Guilford Press.

Quick, Kathryn, and Jodi Sandfort. 2014. “Learning to Facilitate Deliberation: Practicing the Art of Hosting.” Critical Policy Studies8 (3): 300–322. https://doi.org/10.1080/19460171.2014.912959.

Scharmer, C. Otto. 2009. Theory U: Learning from the Future as It Emerges.Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Tõnurist, P., Kattel, R., & Lember, V. (2017). Innovation labs in the public sector: what they are and what they do? Public Management Review, 19(10), 1455–1479. http://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2017.1287939

Westley, Frances, Sam Laban, C Rose, K McGowan, K Robinson, O Tjornbo, and M Tovey. 2015. “Social Innovation Lab Guide.” Rockefeller Foundation.


Click here to download the working paper

Gearing up the level of systems oriented design in public sector. Case, experiences and learning from Stimulab innovation program

Paulsen Adrian 1, Wildhagen Benedicte 2, Sevaldson Birger 3
1, Halogen
3, Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Public services
Very complex problems
Systems Oriented Design
Organization design
Inter-departmental collaboration

The paper will present the Stimulab program, a program for innovation in the public sector in Norway. The design of the Stimulab program was inspired by amongst others, Systems Oriented Design (SOD) approaches and techniques. This turned out to be useful in general and a requirement for success for the most complex projects in the program.
We will present two cases in the framework of Stimulab especially with the design consultancy Halogen. These two projects were especially challenging because they were crossing institutional barriers and contained multiple stakeholders. In the end we will present a discussion on what kind of learnings and generalizations this has lead to.


Public sector need to strengthen innovative capabilities to be able to solve citizens needs and reduce management resources.
To increase public sector use of service design and to bring forward more examples of public innovation, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation established a two-year trial program in 2016. The task of developing the program was assigned to the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi). Due to the emphasis on design they entered into a partnership with DOGA. The result of our collaboration is the experimental program StimuLab.

Since improving complex public issues can lead to substantial socioeconomic benefits, the Difi DOGA team decided to emphasize such issues, as they tend to be left untouched due to their level of complexity, e.g. sectoral responsibility, lack of financing and coordination challenges. The DOGA partner were aware of how SOD can bring a much needed, richer understanding of a given challenge, including relationships and regulations embedded in complex issues, somewhat risky choice. This was of vital importance to the project. The StimuLab platform The program provides cross-disciplinary support, guidance and financial resources for innovative public projects. In this way, StimuLab is testing new ways of working to improve services, systems, procedures, regulations or the exercise of authority on state- and municipality level.

The Stimulab platform was built around the following elements:

  1. Difi + DOGA as catalyst – utilize existing public ecosystem for innovation in new ways.
    a. Stimulating cooperation across sectors and levels of government
    b. Finding the flex in regulations and procurement processes
    c. Focus on impact, but be explorative
    d. Reduce risk and catalyze innovation
  2. Utilize the market and make demands for competence configuration to handle complex issues – required skills: (Systemic) Design methods in lead, Change management, Impact assessment.
  3. Method for Complexity: StimuLab rethinks how we apply design methods to explore complex public issues.
    a. Demand for a Trippel Diamond approach, emphasizing the DIAGNOSE PHASE, to ensure a systemic understanding of the situation and exploring & reframing of challenge.

These elements were informing the selection of public actors to be invited to the project and they were forming the call for project assignment that went out to the service design companies in the Oslo area and that were defined in the contracts.

StimuLab grant to procure experts:
• 2016 – 2017 NOK 5 + 5 mill.
• 2018 NOK 10 mill.

Two Cases

Halogen, in collaboration with Rambøll Management Consulting, qualified to take on two cases from the Stimulab pool of public service providers. The projects were presenting very different topics, organizations and type of case owners but shared a very high level of complexity. The main challenge was the need for crossing disciplines and silos to induce change. How to frame the project in a way that allowed for cross-disciplinary work was a major challenge. They both had been through a variety of different attempts of improving their respective service systems, but there had been few successfully implemented changes over the last 5-10 years.

Through applying SOD as a central methodology, supported by service design, KPI1`s and change management – the teams could visually frame the challenges and focus efforts on leverage points in the organizations. Co-creative methods give shape to both interventions and the contextual support needed to create a healthier working environment around the projects in terms of collaboration, communication, financial and legal issues and regarding the relationship between the actors involved. SOD brings a richer understanding of the elements the given service is built on and relations holding the elements together. It helps the teams think broader on what and how interventions can be shaped.

The first project initiated was a project around how to manage citizen’s right to drive (Førerett). This project is still ongoing. The second project was around the governmental initiatives to reduce human trafficking in Norway, this project is being politically decided on as this abstract is written.

License to drive – SOD supported changes

Four directorates moved from working in parallel and unsynchronized disconnect to actual co-creating a seemingly marginal and unimportant service of reassigning driving licences to people who have lost them for medical or legal issues. The process of systemically untangling and innovating in this cross institutional problematique turned out to be both interesting and relevant for a larger audience within the government
Lack of political attention has shifted through realizing there are significant organizational and economical savings to be made and the cross-directorate collaboration has inspired a renewed funding for a long-term development program with political support.

Human trafficking – SOD supported changes

One department, municipal actors and a network of NGO`s lacking a clear organization are now being re-organized with a focus on the victims of human trafficking.
Lack of collaboration and leadership is being addressed through a reorganization and implementation of better service delivery frameworks, collaboration channels to strengthening each other’s efforts.
The previous change initiatives where little cocreation had been applied is being addressed with a renewed focus and understanding of why and how services can be improved together.


We are starting to find ways to untangle and co-design services for very fragmented systems that cross disciplines and organizational silos. Systemic approaches and in this case SOD is required to achieve success in such cases. The current migration of service design into public services needs to be able to distinct the relatively ordinary (though complicated) projects from those that are truly complex. The challenge in the complex problems lies on the systemic level and it is often an issue caused by missing relations and assumptions on how flexible the systems that enable the given service are. SOD brings a promising perspective and methodology for co-designing relations and connections across organisational and professional boundaries.

Alternative narratives on economic growth: prototyping change at the System level

Kimberley Peter 1, Kerr Helen 2
1, Royal Bank of Canada
2, OCAD University

Causal Layered Analysis
System-level change

Increasing inequality, rising social unrest and climate change suggest new approaches to economic growth are needed. Motivated to understand why the current economic system appears to be failing us, and what a human-centered approach might bring to the challenge, this research study investigated both current and alternative narratives on economic growth and how a participatory approach to reframing might enable change to a more desirable alternative.

Much has been written both in favour of, and in dissent to, the current orthodoxy around economic growth. Alternative ways of seeing and approaching economy have been proposed since its inception. Not in abundance, however, are comparative views of alternatives. In addition to providing a comparative view of three different narratives on economic growth, this study brings the perspective and tools of human-centered design to a complex systems challenge and proposes taking the value of design thinking and a prototyping mindset beyond service delivery to the level of policy research, design and development.

Two primary phases and approaches were used in the research process. In the first phase on ‘understanding the narratives’, Causal Layered Analysis (Inayatullah, 1998) was used to understand the causes, processes and outcomes of economic growth, as well as alternatives to it, based on interviews with six subject matter experts working in the areas of, or related to, economics and economic policy. The three narratives that emerged included the current growth-first narrative, which came to be called “domination” based on its dominance-based logic and the self-interest that exemplifies market fundamentalism; an emergent narrative, named “participation” for its orientation toward increased social and economic participation within international and national agendas for inclusive growth; and a speculative narrative, which took the name of “freedom” because it embodies notions of independence, self-determination, autonomy and democracy.

In the second phase on ‘exploring change’, the freedom narrative was used as an input to reframe economy and engage two groups of stakeholders in a simulated participatory role-play experience addressing the question of How might we get to a more inclusive economy? The role-play was structured around Roman Krznaric’s “Rough guide to how change happens” (2007) and used non-experts in a generative activity for exploring change and probing potential relationships for future stakeholder engagements. Outputs from this second phase informed five candidate strategies for change intended as proposals to encourage policy influencers and policy makers to adopt and evolve a richer set of policy research and development tools.

As powerful as Causal Layered Analysis and role-play were on their own as primary approaches in each phase of the research study, a key outcome of the project was that Causal Layered Analysis and role-play used in combination may be an even more powerful approach for engaging diverse stakeholders as participants in their own collective futures. More specifically, having stakeholders use the reconstructed narratives from Causal Layered Analysis to explore change in the context of role-play, they can iterate on the system itself. In this way, narratives can be used as both representatives of the change desired as well as probes for change, and through simulated enactment of the alternative, stakeholders in the system might themselves begin to enact the change in the world.

This paper is structured in three parts. First, a brief overview of three narratives on economic growth is provided and conveys key insights about those narratives based on Causal Layered Analysis. Second, an approach to engaging diverse stakeholders using role-play for exploring change at the system level is described, along with how radial convergence mapping can be used as a visual analysis tool to understand stakeholder relationships and inform iterations on systemic challenges. And third, ideas generated in the context of research on economic growth, and lessons learned from the use of role-play, are put forward as approaches for engaging the makers, influencers and receivers of public policy.

Readers of this study might find useful its coverage of alternative narratives on economic growth and how they compare; how role-play can be used for its transformational potential among a group of diverse stakeholders to help empower people outside the system of typical decision makers, to discover new relationships and to be used as a rehearsal method for future stakeholder communications and collaborations within a system; and how role-play might be used as a generative approach for candidate strategies for change, including potential new tools for policy research and engagement and using narratives as probes for testing readiness for, and resistance to, change.

This study will be useful to both academics and practitioners interested in how a human-centered and systemic design approach might be brought to the challenge of policy research, design and development.


Inayatullah, S. (1998). Causal layered analysis: poststructuralism as method. Futures, 30(8), 815–829. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0016-3287(98)00086-X

Krznaric, R. (2007). How Change Happens: Interdisciplinary Perspectives for Human Development. Oxfam Research Report, 31(2–4), 1–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/02703140802146233


Click here to download the working paper

Mapping-and-Designing (in) relationally composed fields

Stamatopoulou Athina
School of Architecture National Technical University of Athens (N.T.U.A)

Mapping methodology
Design methodology
Relational city
Open mapping
Decision-making oriented design

This paper is part of an ongoing PhD research dealing with the construction of a methodology of mapping-and-designing things from a relational-thinking point of view. The methodology is developed through the dialogue of a theoretical and a practice-oriented part: the logic’s scheme evolves through experiments and testing applications. The current paper focuses on how two testing case-studies in the city field give feedback to the logic, to its potential applications and its connection to design.

Research-theoretical framework

Central idea is the relationality: we concentrate on relations of things, in terms of potential interactions and connections, not only physically and materially, but also immaterially (i.e. information). In this context, inspired among else by Cilliers’ (1998) and Batty’s (2013) thinking, the city is understood as an open dynamic complex system, being composed by constantly changing relations among heterogeneous parameters.
We focus on the complexity emerging from the relationality of the city, when considered as networks of places. We think of ‘place’ as something dynamic (Massey 1993). We give emphasis on the connections of places, intending to embed their immaterial relations generated by information, always in connection with the material ones.

The main research question is how we can analyse and at the same time compose design proposals for the city in regard to its multiplicity, its relationality and its constant changing.
We set mapping as a key starting point. We argue, following among else James Corner (1999) thought, that it is a process, which can be both analytical and generative. By mapping we refer to the whole process that produces any kind of written description, highlighting that it is intentional, made by a specific subject within a specific context.

Aim of the methodology is to create a tool: of a generative analysis for decision-making processes; capable of analysing an object (here the city) in regard to its parameters of multiplicity; that enables us to decompose and recompose an object. The multiple new reorganisations of an object feed the generative capacities of the tool. This generativity is not promoted towards a direction of an increasing complexity, but as a way to reveal it, to understand, to explore and at the same time to manage it through abstractions.

Description of the methodology

The methodology is composed of three levels of actions. In the first, we gather data: different mappings, following a sampling logic. The second concerns the analysis and the organisation of the data in order to define the translation parameters among them. In the third one, we test the methodology in different case-studies. This level enables back and forth transitions between generalisations and specifications, while it makes the logic adaptable to different processes and contexts.
Let us explore it through the two case-studies. The one is an experiment of 26 mappings of public space Athens, carried out in a postgraduate course.

The other one, which is more recent and ongoing, concerns 31 descriptions of a specific park in Athens, made by different subjects, belonging to different agents related to it. These were extracted from the published discourse about the city. In both cases, data are organised and visualised into an “interactive open map”, composed of a data-base (mapping in their original form), a table and a map. The horizontal axis of the table integrates references to the gathered mappings and the vertical one the properties (of the mappings) list as organised in categories. On the map the different references to physical locations are codified and noted as dots, lines and areas.
The data-base, the table and the map are interconnected through options of selections: for instance, selections on the table can activate networks on the map; selections on the map can indicate properties of locations.
The data-base, the table and the map are interconnected through options of selections: for instance, selections on the table can activate networks on the map; selections on the map can indicate properties of locations.

Athens center case-study

Firstly, combinations of selected properties on the list can activate references and implied relations among references on the map.
For instance, if we select the property open editable file on the table, then the mappings with this property are highlighted along with their references to the city on the map. This way, we can see the spatial expression of one or more properties. Considering that through these actions all the relevant references to the city are getting connected, what we see on the map is a network, that we have created through our interaction with the system. The value of such actions is not the creation of connections; but our capability of seeing how these interrelations, deconstruct and at the same time reconstruct the map and the “city”. The properties list is a key-point here: although it changes and adapts depending the context, it functions as a cluster of parameters in regard to which an object can be decomposed and recomposed, it can be multiplied. Another option is to select a location on the map, which shows us which mappings include reference(s) to it as well as their properties on the table. This way, the properties attached to any location on the map can be detected.

From these simple actions, one can see not only how locations and information are related but mainly how information affects the relations of locations and how relations of locations reveal relations of information.

Park case-study

The location we selected before is a node of networks. Such a node can be further analysed in a zoom-in logic, as attempted in this second case study of the park. Every node on the map of the Athens centre case study might be another system or a network, revealing more details about its “internal” relations.
As in the previous case-study, we can make the same actions in the system of the open interactive map. For instance, if we select the property “approach through history” on the table, we see that 4 matched descriptions. Accordingly, we activate their references (in red) to the physical terrain of the park. These are some first simplified steps of abstracting the complexity of all the mappings and descriptions.
Perspectives of design logics

The question of how all these options might be integrated or even feed relevant design logics is what remains important in this paper.

Firstly, the interactive open mapping system, as a logic, can produce urban design and strategy proposals attached to the analysis actions. Through this application, we can detect, indicate and, thus, propose, locations and areas for further interventions. Our proposal is not limited to the definition of the locations and the limits of their field, but it integrates the terms (i.e. concepts and the meanings or the relations with other locations), the briefing.

For instance, if we want to reveal a location’s properties (i.e. Syntagma square), we have to focus on the mappings that include and relate it to other places. In this scenario, we choose the location on the map, and 11 mappings, including reference to it, get highlighted on the table along with their properties. This way, we have activated all the other locations to which the 11 mappings refer to. All these locations are related to the Syntagma square, as this is caused though the 11 mappings. If a place is among else its relations with other places, then we can argue that the Syntagma square potentially extents to everything we see in black on the map.
This way, we can approach any location, through the lens of other, related to it, places. Considering that a designed intervention is capable of affecting other nodes or relations, we can think of intervening to a place without doing something directly to it, but to its relations.

By making different selections, going back and forth the map and the table, we can zoom in a specific location and proceed to more concrete proposals by setting hierarchies of what we see. Let us suppose that we want to make a proposal for the Syntagma square in regard to the combination of the concepts of the commons and of the Otherness. Here we see which mappings refer to the Syntagma square in regard to these two concepts and the created networks.

Let us see how the same logic applies in the case-study of the park.
By clicking to the property “problems”, we realise that this red set of networks on the map is composed of diverse types of networks: some relations might be conflicting while others trigger attractions. The conflicting relations, can be for instance revealed through information attributing ‘negative’ properties. These make the physical distances even larger. Accordingly, cases characterized by complementarity and consistency bring locations closer.
In order to understand this better, we have noted in 4 different colors the references made by the four descriptions. Additionally, we have translated all the references in positive and negative, according to the attributed properties, as set in their context. By connecting all the negatives and all the positives, two types of fields of forces arise: an attractions’ one and a repulsions’ one. Through this step, we open perspectives on how we can use back and forth actions among relationality and territoriality.
Additionally, to the revealed networks, we can go deeper on the issue of the park’s “problems” by activating further properties noted on the left of every map. These, by implying problems or properties related to them can enrich the description of the problems of the park (in regard to more parameters such as time) and feed even more targeted proposals.
Looking comparatively at the potentialities emerging from the two cases, we think of mapping- and-designing by revealing and setting hierarchies in multiple networks and scales of complexities, by looking at the same time the whole city field and a specific location, along the in-between networks in regard to parameters we set. Zooming-in and zooming-out are potentially endless and they can work as actions mutually developed. This methodology is a proposal for a holistic approach of things, encouraging the synergy between relationality and territoriality, between analysis and design, between diverse scales and points of views.


Batty, Michael. The new science of cities. London and Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2013.

Corner, James. “The Agency of Mapping” in Denis Cosgrove (ed.), Mappings. 213-52. Reaktion Books. London, 1999.

Cilliers, Paul. Complexity and postmodernism. Understanding complex systems. Routledge: London and New York, 1998.

Massey, Doreen. “A counterhegemonic Relationality of Place” in Eugene McCann and Kevin Ward (eds.), Mobile Urbanism. Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age. 1-14. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis and London, 1993.

Stamatopoulou, Athina. Open Mapping: The city in regard to multiple subjects.
Postgraduate diploma, supervisor Prof.: Georgios. Parmenidis. School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens. (in Greek). 2016. (in Greek)


Click here to download the working paper

A reflection on connecting complexity theory and design for policy

Taverna Andrea, Mortati Marzia
Politecnico di Milano

Design for policy
Complexity; policy making
Policy innovation
Complex system

Policy innovation to face complex problems

Society, meant as an aggregate of people interacting with each other in a more or less ordered community, is by definition complex. The relations among its elements (i.e. the people) have different properties that create a distinctly complex system. For instance, as one of the characteristics of complexity theory, they have a nonlinear behavior, meaning that they might respond in different ways to an identical input depending on the circumstances (Byrne, 2002). While it is largely recognized that evolution increased the complexity of social environments (Bar-Yam, 1997), the quick diffusion of digital communication channels and tools (i.e. ICTs) has radically increased the number of interactions among humans, diversifying nature (i.e. digital messaging) and amplifying scale (i.e. social network platforms), thus increasing de facto the complexity of the social system (McChrystal et al., 2015). Indeed, if on the one hand, the technological progress brought a range of benefits like higher connectivity, quicker mobility or easier flow of information, on the other hand it also carried new and critical social and ethical challenges, both on a micro scale (i.e. privacy issues), and on a macro one (i.e. migration). These increasingly complex sociotechnical problems are challenging both the traditional models and solutions used by governments for regulation (the traditional policymaking process), and the old process of public and private innovation (new disruptive technologies like AI or blockchain will radically modify some of the workings of civil society like the type and distribution of jobs).

Focusing on governments and their traditional model to produce and enact regulations, the main reasons behind this scenario can be further described using the following categories:

  • Procedures, that are often inappropriate for the scale and speed of technological change, as more often the traditional process for policy development and implementation is linear and deterministic;
  • Organizational structures and procedures, that are often inadequate to support the new need for policy innovation determined by the current scenario (i.e. old silos structure);
  • Citizen engagement, that is often not appropriately applied to the design and development of policy.

Building on this, the public sector at large needs a renovation, that can include the advantages of Digital Government, modernization of procedures and organizational structures, as well as the development of new ways to include citizens as new sources of solution and generation of public value.

Design for policy and Complexity theory to aid policy innovation

Due to the scenario described, institutions around the world are looking for and experimenting with new approaches to transform the public sector, also looking at design as a potential source of new methods, principles, and tools (Junginger, 2017). In the last decades, design has increasingly accepted this new area of work, evolving its interests toward intangible solutions and acting in what Buchanan (2001) defines third and fourth orders of design, that is working, studying and experimenting on interactions (third order) and systems (fourth order). More recently, Norman et al. (2015) have described how design can play an active role in reducing political, social and cultural disruption while building more resilient solutions alongside optimizing resources. Furthermore, Bason (2017) has underlined the potential of applying design practice in public sector and administration using three dimensions:

  • Exploring the problem space
  • Generating alternative scenarios
  • Enacting new practices

Interestingly, he argues that ethnographically-inspired design approaches can support and inform the process of identification of policy needs, by understanding people’s needs and wishes. Beyond people centricity, the relevance of design approaches for government also lies in the ability to map and visualize information and languages (Mauri and Ciuccarelli, 2016), thus helping insights emerge and create a shared vocabulary with citizens to start social conversations (Manzini, 2015). One of the essential aspects of this generation of alternative scenarios in complex systems of stakeholders is the ability to trigger a debate based on a desirable vision of the future. Therefore, we can say that design scenarios use creativity to enable collaborative ideation and prototyping (Kimbell & Bailey, 2017), an aspect that is particularly relevant to renovate current policymaking practice. However, traditional design practices are not yet accustomed to handling complexity for policy formulation, as until now they have mainly been focused on tangible policy outputs (i.e. public services), and would therefore benefit from further understanding about how to integrate and handle a complex system to understand new social challenges and devise solutions to them. The aim is therefore to support this through proposing an integration between complexity theory and design for policy aiming at policy innovation.

From a theoretical point of view, these two areas have a common ground, for instance:

  • The object of the analysis is in both cases a complex system, its elements, their relations and characteristics (i.e. emergence);
  • The perspective on the system takes into consideration all its elements with a holistic approach, in contrast with a reductionist one.
    From a practical point of view, few experiences and projects can be found in which the concepts of complexity theory are beginning to enrich the design process (i.e. healthcare system design). However, structured reflection and enquiry about how to connect these two areas can seldom be found, and here lies the contribution this paper aims at making. In particular, the intention is to begin to work on a shared vocabulary, methods, and tools that embedded in design for policy could significantly advance the knowledge of both areas as well as innovation in policymaking.

Research design: Focusing on the intersection between Complexity, Policy and Design

In order to comprehend the connection between complexity theory and design for policy, the research selects and analyses the scientific papers published in the last ten years in the most accredited databases (WOS and Scopus) produced with references to the topics of Complexity Theory, Policy Design and Design for Policy, either looking at how these are connected or to extract the most relevant principles for each, for further connection.
Regarding complexity, special attention will be paid to the scale of the system, as its complexity is highly influenced by the number of interactions and increases when the number of interacting elements increases.
In the area of Policy Design, the discussion will reflect on those contributions that frame policy formulation as a design problem to understand where/how design is already considered part of the process and where this process can be further supported by principles coming from complexity studies.
Finally, literature in the area of Design for Policy is analyzed to match the characteristics of this activity with the above areas and create a more compelling understanding on the topic.
The knowledge retrieved from this research will be analyzed placing concepts in a matrix based on Buchanan’s fourth orders of design, declined by Jones and van Patter (2009) in the four domanis of design, arguing that “many more will be engaged in the Design 3.0 and Design 4.0 activity spaces with more knowledge and better tools”. In our research, these are considered as four distinct design domains from design 1.0 to 4.0 and are useful to understand two aspects: the scale of the system and the kind of design domain (fig. 1).
Based on this, the most relevant domains for our research will be the third and the fourth because connected to organizational structures, social systems and policymaking, thus these will be the object of literature mapping. Moreover, the policy cycle defined by Howlett and Ramesh (2003) and further illustrated by Junginger (2015) (fig. 2) will be used to understand where the activity of design mainly plays a role in the formulation and ideation of a policy.
Finally, these theoretical models are matched to map scientific papers and arguments built by other scholars following the structure provided in Table 1 below.


The mapping tool proposed through the table will generate insights on how in the last decade the conversation around the introduction of design methods and processes in policymaking has evolved also in connection to complexity theory, and what theoretical elements can be useful to create a share language and vocabulary for mutual enrichment and disciplinary enhancement.
This analysis creates a base of knowledge from which other scholars and researchers might work to share a research field that connects complexity theory and design for policy, thus contributing to make use of complexity theory in design for creating value and not to perceive complexity as a problem.


Byrne, D. (2002). Complexity theory and the social sciences: An introduction. Routledge.
Bar-Yam, Yaneer. (1997). Complexity Rising: From Human Beings to Human Civilization, a Complexity Profile. NECSI Report 1997-12-01

McChrystal, G. S., Collins, T., Silverman, D., & Fussell, C. (2015). Team of teams: New rules of engagement for a complex world. Penguin.

Junginger, S. (2017). Design Research and Practice for the Public Good: A Reflection. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation 3, 290–302. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sheji.2018.02.005

Buchanan, R. (2001). Design research and the new learning. Design issues, 17(4), 3-23.
Norman, D.A. and Stappers, P.J. (2015). DesignX: complex sociotechnical systems. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 1(2), pp.83-106.

Bason, C. (2017). Leading Public Design: How Managers Engage with Design to Transform Public Governance. Copenhagen Business School [Phd].

Manzini, E. (2015). Design, when everybody designs: An introduction to design for social innovation. MIT press.

Kimbell, L., & Bailey, J. (2017). Prototyping and the new spirit of policy-making. CoDesign, 13(3), 214-226.

Mauri, M., & Ciuccarelli, P. (2016). Designing diagrams for social issues. In DRS2016: Design+ Research+ Society-Future-Focused Thinking (pp. 941-958). Design Research Society.

Jones, P.H., & van Patter, G.K. (2009). Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0: The rise of visual sensemaking. New York: NextDesign Leadership Institute.

Understanding variations of entanglement and complexity: A way to influence expectations of Service and Systems Oriented Design in public sector

Wildhagen Benedicte
Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA)

Cross-sectorial public innovation
Policy design
Public innovation


This presentation will introduce a simple way to distinguish low or high-levels of regulatory and cross-sector entanglement and complexity in design-lead, public sector projects. A basic ordering to support understanding and assessment of cross-disciplinary needs, including systemic design, as well as substantiate realistic expectations of what design-lead projects can result in, over time. The insights are based on experiences and learning from StimuLab, a Norwegian government experimental program, which I have co-designed.


During the last decade, Service Design has proven to be well suited to improve and innovate Norwegian public services, which are better for the user and provide a more efficient use of resources for management. One example from 2013 is the project, ‘If the patient was to decide’ at Oslo University Hospital. The service design project lasted approximately five months and managed to reduce the waiting time for breast cancer diagnosis by 90 %.
Together with several other excellent cases, this has resulted in a rapidly increasing interest and high expectations at political level along with public sector in general, that Service Design can provide significant and concrete contributions to public services.

To increase public sector use of Service Design and to bring forward more examples of public innovation, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation established a two-year trial program in 2016. The task of developing the program was assigned to the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi). Due to the emphasis on design they entered into a partnership with DOGA. Both government agencies have responsibilities to develop and innovate public sector.

The result of our collaboration is the experimental program StimuLab. The program utilizes existing public ecosystem for innovation in new ways (Difi + DOGA), to reduce risk and catalyze innovation. It stimulates cooperation across sectors and levels of government and find the flex in regulations and procurement processes. StimuLab focus on impact but urge exploration. In this manner, StimuLab is testing new ways of working, to improve services, systems, procedures, regulations or the exercise of authority.

The StimuLab platform

We have chosen to utilize the market to develop and deliver solutions together with the public actors. Furthermore, we demanded a specific competence configuration from the market, to strengthen their capacity to handle complexity. Service design (including Systems Oriented Design) must be in the lead, supported by change management and impact assessment. This demand has resulted in new, fruitful collaborations between design agencies and management consulting companies.

Problem statement

Based on the promising results from previous service design projects, such as “If the patient was to decide”, the assignment from the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation emphasized that StimuLab projects must deliver real results for real users, by the end of 2017.

During 2016-2017, StimuLab has supported and funded 8 projects with a total grant of NOK 10 mill. Improving a complex public issue can lead to substantial socioeconomic benefits, but they tend to be left untouched due to e.g. sectoral responsibility, lack of financing, absence of functional methods, coordination challenges etc. StimuLab has specifically pursued several such challenges. However, unlike “If the patient was allowed to decide” which was realized in approximately five months, untangling complexity on state level involves many actors placed across several sectors and requires more time than a typical service design project.
In our workings with StimuLab, we needed to create a better understanding of these variations, and also what this entailed, when it came to the Ministry’s anticipation of results.


In the StimuLab portfolio, huge variations in project properties have revealed themselves. By sorting the eight projects in a Pournelle chart we were able to support understanding and assessment of cross-disciplinary needs, as well as substantiate realistic expectations of design-lead project impact, in relation to where they are located in the chart.
I claim that:

• Increased understanding and awareness of variations in project properties, among designers and in the public sector, will help create more realistic expectations. High- level complex challenges in the top right quadrant require step-by-step development with multiple actors. They cannot be improved as rapidly as a service in the bottom left quadrant.
• Service Design in its current state is dominated by user-journey focus and is not well- positioned to take on very high-level challenges by itself. Systemic capacity is useful, but not critical. In the top right quadrant, systems design capacity and cross- disciplinary approach is vital.
• The Pournelle chart sorting help to distinguishing tasks, so that one can allocate different design- and other experts necessary to tackle the challenge at hand.

To substantiate my claims the presentation will include StimuLab project examples as well as methodology in use, e.g. Systems Oriented Design, co-creative methods, impact assessment.


The great interest Norwegian politicians and public sector express towards service design today, represents a significant opportunity – but also a risk. If results are slow to appear, interest and opportunity may be lost. Both Service Design and Systems Oriented Design are relatively young disciplines, still in development. The simple Pournelle chart classification I have outlined could contribute to increase awareness of the variations embedded in public sector challenges, and what it will require to tackle complex, systemic issues.