Service Designing for Human Relationships to Positively Enable Social Systemic Change
Mieke van der Bijl - Brouwer


Service design is increasingly seen as a means to enable systemic change in complex contexts. The contexts in which services are co-produced—the social group, network, service organisation, or ecosystem—can be considered complex social systems. A characteristic of complex social systems is that new system behaviour emerges through a mechanism called self-organisation. Self-organisation shows how human relationships are at the core of social systemic change. Such systemic changes are reflected in system behaviour such as adaptation, mutual learning, and collective creativity and motivation. As service design is in essence about human relationships, it becomes relevant to ask how we can design for human relationships to positively enable social systemic change? In this paper, I argue that expert design reasoning is an important source in designing conditions that enable positive human relationships, and that this design reasoning can be expanded to work towards a design rationale for systemic change by building on theories of complex social systems. I illustrate this perspective with the reasoning of service designers in two cases, who used their insights to design for human relationships. I conclude with a discussion of the implications for service design practice and service design education.

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