André Schaminée


Since 2008 I team up with social designers and organizational consultants in my projects. I do that because I see that many social issues now seem almost impossible to resolve using the trusted ways of doing things; they instead need radically different approaches to ensure our society remains resilient. However, a good idea alone will most of the time not lead to the desired change. We need knowledge of systems and organizational processes too.

Social designers are trained to quickly build a deep level of contact with end users – the people we’re doing this all for. They’re able to reframe wicked issues – that is, they can make us literally look at issues from a new perspective. They’re experts at prototyping – that is, they can quickly test ideas and concepts, making them better as a result and ensuring they have a faster impact.

Designers are able to reframe wicked issues – that is, they can make us literally look at issues from a new perspective

What I realised is that social design (or: design thinking) is a fundamentally different approach than most organisations are used to. That’s both inviting and threatening. E.g. people who take a project-minded approach to their work tend to first think a lot, take a decision and then structurally implement that decision. The learning and exploratory nature of design thinking can be at odds with that. As a result, many social design projects don’t become a success. Not knowing what the result will be at the start, will lead to a lack of trust. And eventually undermining the social design process.

I have assembled a team of the best designers that know like no one else how to create a good design process. We’ve completed successful design projects for spatial planning, healthcare, agriculture, energy and climate. Always in a co-creative process with end users and representatives of the stakeholder organisations. Some of my projects are taken as best practice. For instance, a project on which we helped build a positive relationship between Amsterdam residents and a six-year long infrastructure project.

I’m currently helping the government to translate the Environmental and Planning Act (the biggest legislative change in the Netherlands since the constitution) into proper services. This branch of design thinking is what we call Service Design.

I enjoy working on projects. I’m also an in-demand speaker and guest lecturer at Business School Nyenrode, various universities (of applied science) and the Design Academy Eindhoven. The book Designing With and Within Public Organizations that I wrote connects the best of consultancy disciplines, such as change management, building coalitions, stakeholder management and leadership, to design thinking. I explain what it adds, which tensions it introduces in organisations and how to deal with these successfully.