From problem areas to design intervention

This blog post reports on work-in-progress within the DfG course! The post is written by group 2C dealing with the Ministry of Finance’s brief on Employment services reform. The group includes Mark Laukkanen from Information Networks program, Mathias Leopold Hörlesberger from New Media Design and Production program, Sera Remes from Collaborative and Industrial Design program, and Sanne van der Linden from Creative Sustainability program

Written by: Sera Remes

As a third update from the DfG course project, we will open our process working towards meaningful design intervention. Since the last post, we have moved from defining the problem to ideating the solution in order to improve the international jobseekers’ experience. This blog will focus first on how we have identified leverage points, and then on how we have continued to ideation through prioritization to develop the most optimal intervention. Lastly, I will tell you what were the key learnings for me and where we are moving next.

Mapping leverage points – places to intervene in a system

The first part of the solution space was about diving deep into the problem definition space. In the course Mid-term presentation we framed our project problem area as follows: “The current system providing and structuring information doesn’t enable international jobseekers to be proactive. The problem becomes visible at different steps of the jobseeking journey.“ Based on all the insights gathered previously, we have now moved from research to ideating solutions. 

We started the process by identifying different leverage points. Leverage points are places in a complex system where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes for the whole system (Meadows, 1999). Linking the leverage points to a journey map that starts from the beginning of unemployment and continues through different stages to finding a job, has helped us to analyze the impact on jobseekers.

We have approached the project with systems thinking, not only previously through systems mapping analysis but also now by trying to understand which points in the system would work as leverage points. For me, this has been one of the key learnings that I hope to bring to my future work as well. Designing change that actually creates ameaningful impact requires deep understanding of the system we work within. Even understanding the complexity of the system is already a good start, but what I have found especially useful are the concrete tools such as creating the journey and system mapping based on the data gathered from different research sources, and then using those as a base to map potential leverage points. 

Ideating and prioritizing for meaningful solution

After mapping different points for a possible intervention and ideating solutions, we moved forward by presenting the user journey to other groups by creating a storyboard with an example persona who would need to go through the jobseeking journey. Highlighting the differences between the current stage of the system and what it could ideally be resulted in insightful inspirations for possible solutions. 

The challenge we currently are working on is to define what solution ideas we should prioritize. This requires a lot of thought, as many of the solutions can be linked. And when considering jobseekers’ journey from start to end, there are multiple areas where the information structure should be improved. By mapping ideas that are realistic to implement and looking at creating meaningful impact on the jobseekers’ experience, we have been able to move towards understanding what the core of our intervention should be. 

Learnings and next steps

An important insight for me has been how important it is to spend enough time just defining the problem. It feels like this is the part that might easily get neglected in design work, as design resources migh be more focused on concretely designing the solution. It was great to notice how easy it was for us to really start mapping possible ideas for the solution when we had a strong base and common understanding of the problems based on our previous research. The key for creating this understanding has been systemic thinking throughout the whole process, problem and solution.

Another important area has been communication. Creating material for presenting the findings to others helps also to cristalise ideas for ourselves in a tangible manner. I’m looking forward to the next steps where we will start to collect feedback from different stakeholders to help us define our intervention even further. We want to create a solution that is possible to implement and that really has an effect on the problems we have identified, and this requires that we both understand the complex system we design for, but also that we are able to communicate and share the importance of solving these issues.


Meadows, D., (1999) Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. The sustainability institute

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

The DfG course runs for 14 weeks each spring – the 2022 course has now started and runs from 28 Feb to 23 May. It’s an advanced studio course in which students work in multidisciplinary teams to address project briefs commissioned by governmental ministries in Finland. The course proceeds through the spring as a series of teaching modules in which various research and design methods are applied to address the project briefs. Blog posts are written by student groups, in which they share news, experiences and insights from within the course activities and their project development. More information here about the DfG 2022 project briefs. Hold the date for the public online finale online 09:00-12:00 AM (EEST) on Monday 23 May!

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