Systemic Design: Two Canadian Case Studies


  • Alex Ryan Government of Alberta
  • Mark Leung University of Toronto


Emneord (Nøkkelord):

systemic design, design thinking, systems thinking, methodology, comparative analysis, procurement, natural resource management.


This paper introduces two novel applications of systemic design to facilitate a comparison of alternative methodologies that integrate systems thinking and design. In the first case study, systemic design helped the Procurement Department at the University of Toronto re-envision how public policy is implemented and how value is created in the broader university purchasing ecosystem. This resulted in an estimated $1.5 million in savings in the first year, and a rise in user retention rates from 40% to 99%. In the second case study, systemic design helped the clean energy and natural resources group within the Government of Alberta to design a more efficient and effective resource management system and shift the way that natural resource departments work together. This resulted in the formation of a standing systemic design team and contributed to the creation of an integrated resource management system. A comparative analysis of the two projects identifies a shared set of core principles for systemic design as well as areas of differentiation that reveal potential for learning across methodologies. Together, these case studies demonstrate the complementarity of systems thinking and design thinking, and show how they may be integrated to guide positive change within complex sociotechnical systems.


Alex Ryan, Government of Alberta

Lead a cross-ministry systemic design team within the Government of Alberta. PhD thesis "A multidisciplinary approach to complex systems design" was completed at the University of Adelaide in 2007.

Mark Leung, University of Toronto

Director of Design Works, Rotman School of Management




Hvordan referere

Ryan, A., & Leung, M. (2014). Systemic Design: Two Canadian Case Studies. FormAkademisk, 7(3).

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