Shifting Mindsets : System design Thinking

Hi :) This is my attempt at breaking down principles of Transition design and system design thinking through their application in the Indian rural context focussing on Life skills education for rural adolescent girls of Udaipur District, Rajasthan, India.

Before I start a conversation about systems, it is important to understand :

What is a system ?

A system is a set of related components that work together in a particular environment to perform whatever functions are required to achieve the system’s objective.
Donella Meadows

Usually we design systems which are closed in nature. This means we build the boundary walls using a set of rules which were designed without taking into account the surroundings. When everything around us is dynamic in nature, interconnected and non linear, making closed systems has not served humans well. For e.g.: Our industrial production methods has resulted in unsustainable practices with a negative impact on the environment because the industries were designed as closed systems without a focus on the effect of their practices on their surroundings.

How the structure differs in a closed and open system

Open systems mean designing for a nodal point in such a way that in whatever direction it evolves, it has a strong foundation. Religion or culture for example can be an example of an open system, it grows and evolves with its interaction with outside religions and other cultures. At the same time it is based on certain values and those certain values are absolute in nature.

But the question is , how can I design a new system with a new vision for an existing complex system ? What if instead of “designing” for the user , the system allows the user to design, by considering them as the experts of their space. Thus, in a way designing for the nodal points of an open system and passing the tools to the user.

This can be achieved if we focus on building an environment for the user to use tools to build for themselves. But, in a complex system ruled by patriarchy; a society that decides whether a girl is born or not, till when can she study, when she gets married and what she does or doesn’t do with her life; how will an adolescent girl design for self ?

During my research through gender card games , card sorting for understanding aspirations and other conversations with various stakeholders, I realised that if the first step towards a new system requires a shift in mindset then I need to help the girls question the current mindset, the familiar ideas : existing social customs like child marriage, household work holding more value over education, so on and so forth.

Can I introduce new conversations about gender and patriarchal nature of the society using gamification and make the girls aware about alternate realities ?

The product was meant to be a facilitator’s aid to start a dialogue in a friendly setting without the fear of being judged.

Note : This is my personal translation of a lot of system design theories and concepts.