(Service) Design and Organisational Change: Balancing with Translation Objects
Anna Seravalli, Hope Witmer


This article contributes to the further understanding of how (service) design can engage with organisational change. It does so by applying translation theory and building on the insights from a 7-year-long collaboration with a public agency, during which three attempts at introducing new ways of working were carried out. Translation theory understands organisational change as an intentional and contingent process through which ideas are materialised in possible translation objects that intervene in organisational practices, structures, and assumptions. The longitudinal study highlights how to bring about change, translation processes, and the objects needed to balance the reproduction and challenging of existing practices, structures, and assumptions within organisations. Moreover, translation processes interact with existing power dynamics, which cause reactions to change interventions by, among other things, influencing the legitimacy and mandate of the processes. Therefore, in addition to the mobilisation of internal organisational knowledge, (service) design that engages with organisational change needs to be aware of both power dynamics and to develop approaches and sensibilities to be able to listen and respond to the consequences that interventions in these dynamics might create.

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