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Social System Design

Organisations use predictive methods to considering the future, e.g. Delphi techniques, and scenario planning. Plans are developed for various futures. Such approaches assume that the future is uncontrollable. Not all assume we are so powerless, and SSD is intended to help groups and communities design their own future. Propositions underlying SSD are challenging:

  1. it is a basic right of individuals, groups and communities to be involved in making decisions that affect them.
  2. it is unethical to design social systems for someone else. It is ethical to design with others. In social systems, people who live in the system are the experts
  3. a designing community is comprised of people who serve the system, who are served by it, and who are affected by it. They collectively are the designers, and users of the design: they own the design. They are the user designers.
  4. designers of some social systems are trustees for future generations. They must constantly ask: how will the system we design affect the unborn?
  5. they can exercise this right only if they develop competence that empowers them to take part directly and authentically in the design of the systems and communities in which they live and work
  6. collective design capability empowers us to practice authentic, truly participative democracy. It enables us to guide the activities that enrich the quality of our lives, add value to the systems in which we live, and organise our lives in service of common good.
  7. the role of the design professional is to develop resource and create arrangements and opportunities by which a community can learn how to engage with the design of their system

Q. How do you find yourself reacting to these propositions? Which do you find yourself giving most support to? Which for you carry the most implications and are the most challenging? [See my response]

Q. What does this say to you about designing the social system for your social enterprise? [See my response]

Further Reading. The on-line book Guiding Our Evolution: If we don't do it who will?  by Banathy and Rowland (2004) available at as document 18384645 and also available here