My main research interest is which methods and practices can help us to tackle complex societal challenges. Within this broad domain I’m particularly interested in human-centred and systemic design, inter- and transdisciplinarity, and multi-stakeholder networks.
Human-centred & systemic design
This research is aimed at developing and studying new methodologies, theories and practices for human-centred and systemic design to tackle complex societal challenges. When designing responses to issues such as an ageing population, radicalising youth, health issues and climate change, it is becoming increasingly popular to apply human-, user- or person-centred approaches. To approach these challenges more systemically, we know that it is useful to combine human-centred design with systems thinking. I am particularly interested in designing for human relationships, and how such relationships impact larger social systems.
Inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration
Complex societal challenges require that we build on knowledge from various academic and non-academic domains. While such integration of knowledge is generally considered to be important, expertise on integration is fragmented and dispersed across domains (Bammer, 2020). I’m interested in the methods and practices required to achieve this, in particular how we learn together and shape learning methods and infrastructures that support such research integration. For example, we have developed a workshop technique that makes people aware of their worldview and how that impacts their perspective on knowledge and innovation. And with my colleagues from UTS we looked at how collective reflexive practices supports learning across disciplines in education.
Multi-stakeholder collaboration in social innovation
This research is focused on the collaborative element of design and systems-based approaches in a public or social sector innovation context. Complex societal problems are often networked, which means multiple stakeholders are affected by the problem and/ or contribute to solving the problem, for example, the mental health case study that I describe in this blog. These problems need to be addressed though cross-organisational or ‘cross-silo’ collaborations. It has quickly become popular to apply ‘co-design’ approaches for this purpose. However, there is still a need for a theoretical and methodological foundation to develop these social co-design processes.
I am particularly interested in collaborative innovation in the field of health and wellbeing. There is a growing acceptance of the social, environmental and economic determinants of (mental) health. This means that health is considered beyond a clinical or health perspective to its social context and that health can’t be dealt with in isolation. Cross-service providers and cross-disciplinary processes are required to achieve better health outcomes, for example through ‘integrated care’. My research focus is not so much on the outcomes of these processes, e.g. new models of care, but on the design process. Which stakeholders should participate and collaborate in these processes? What are effective collaborative innovation approaches? What is the role of design in these processes? We are currently exploring these collaboration in the Belonging Project which is aimed at reducing loneliness and increasing social wellbeing among youth.