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Why do Service Designers Struggle to Address Power Dynamics?

To support transformation in service systems, scholars argue for greater attention to power dynamics in service design (SD). While current literature stresses the need for individual service designers to be reflexive about power, it neglects the context within which these designers predominantly work. We argue that such an individual focus overlooks key contextual factors that hinder service designers from addressing power dynamics. This narrowed view of the challenge unintentionally positions service designers as scapegoats, while their inability to address power dynamics effectively persists. In response, we draw on ecological theories in psychology, which offer insights into how individuals’ behaviors are interconnected with factors in their context. We introduce a framework for understanding these interconnections, detailing how we used it to identify and analyze domains of contextual factors that inhibit service designers to address power dynamics in practice. By proposing a systemic framework, identifying related contextual factors, and evaluating applicability with service designers, this study lays the groundwork for structural shifts to address power dynamics in service design more effectively.

Hay, A.Vink, J., & Thøgersen, D., & Suoheimo, M. 2023. 'Why do Service Designers Struggle to Address Power Dynamics?'. Strategic Design Research Journal.1–19.