From service design to systems change – Adam Groves – Medium

From service design to systems change

Reshaping what’s desirable, feasible and viable using ‘Systems Leverage Maps’.

“The end goal of a design thinking work process is to create a solution that is desirable, feasible and viable.” A quick reminder of what that means in practice:

Desirable — your service satisfies the people using it

Feasible — it’s technically possible to implement

Viable — it’s got a sustainable business model

There’s not much to disagree with there. Every service should aim for these characteristics, and a successful design process should achieve them.

So where’s the problem?

It’s arguably becoming harder and harder to fulfill these requirements meaningfully — especially for non-profits and the public sector, which are attempting to support vulnerable populations in a context of austerity. The needs of people accessing key services are growing, to a point where it is often not possible to adequately meet them. Simultaneously, the resource to develop and maintain services is under pressure.

Of course desirable, feasible and viable services can still be created — tight constraints can be the prompt for ingenious solutions. Nonetheless, the terrain for service design is more challenging.

There has been a lot of talk recently about how ‘systems thinking’ approaches can help us navigate this new, more challenging terrain. A recent RSA reportshows how systems thinking and design thinking can be integrated. Systems analysis at the ‘front end’ of service design can help us to better understand complex social problems and identify opportunities to respond more effectively and profoundly. Equally, systems thinking provides tools and mindsets to understand the power structures and ‘system immune responses’ which so often kill new solutions before they get off the ground.

Image from RSA report ‘From Design Thinking to Systems Change

I’ve found this model helpful, together with guidance produced by Lankelly Chase and NPC which aims to nudge traditional design practice towards systemic change.

But in building the case for this way of working, I’ve sometimes struggled to articulate how we might expect the ‘result’ to look different in practice when compared to what exists already.¹ As a consequence, I worry sometimes that there’s a danger of embracing the theatre of systems thinking — using it to position services and to navigate what’s desirable, feasible and viable within the existing system — without actually reshaping the system itself.

Continues in source: From service design to systems change – Adam Groves – Medium