Ecosystems in transition

Designing collaborative ecosystems to accelerate transitions

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In the current moment in time, there are large societal transitions happening, such as the transition to sustainable energy or the transition towards a circular economy. Design-led transitions are societal transitions towards more sustainable futures, led by designers (Irwin, 2015). These transitions help us to move towards a more sustainable future for organizations, and are there- fore something largely all companies would want to participate in to accelerate this. In this increasingly complex, dynamic and networked world (Dorst, 2015), companies cannot solve these large-scale societal issues alone.Therefore, in order to accelerate the transition, it is vital for companies to work together, as the challenges of today cannot be solved by companies by itself. One of the ways in which companies can collaborate is in ecosystems, which has increasing interest of scholars and practitioners. Specifically, this project focuses on transition ecosystems, a specific type of ecosystem focusing on accelerating transitions. In transition ecosystems, companies build multilateral partnerships that need to interact with the shared goal to help accelerate transitions. These ecosystems are first explored by parties and then formed before they work towards the transition. The forming phase of ecosystems is a critical phase, since during this phase a lot of tensions and complications arise, which need to be taken into account in order to have a succesful ecosystem formation. These tensions occur, because within forming an ecosystem there is a gap between the organisational perspective and the ecosystem perspective Organisations want to participate in the transition in order to stay relevant, but might feel threatened or vulnerable by having other parties present. If actors can move towards an ecosystem perspective, they are able to find new collaborations. In order to be able to see their possible new roles and co-create possible futures in the ecosystem, they need to release their concern about current threats and competitiveness. In order to get these parties out of their current role, a dialogue is needed between actors striving to form an ecosystem. This project included a design approach to understand how designing ecosystems can accelerate transitions. For this research, 15 interviews are conducted (13 initial interviews and two follow-up interviews for validation).These interviews informed the designer, to design a toolkit to bridge the gap between the organizational and ecosystem perspective in transition ecosystems. The Value Network toolkit designed in this project aims to bridge the gap between the organisational and ecosystem perspective. It aims to do so by allowing organisations to think free of the constructs of the current situation, see their organisation in a new role and see the value of the ecosystem . The toolkit is aimed at strategic designers facilitating the forming phase of an ecosystem. In the value network toolkit, three tools were developed to facilitate discussions to relieve tensions. The three tools were validated and tested using both expert interviews and a test case, and based on this iterations were made. 
The project concludes with a critical reflection and relates back to existing literature.