Sabrina Heinl (IU Internationale Hochschule)


Topic: Effects of the application of the “Design Thinking” method on the attitude towards participation of clients and professionals within a housing project.

Thematic area: New Models and Methods in Social Work

Language: English 


This paper focuses on the changes in the attitude towards participation of clients and professionals through the application of the “Design Thinking” method in housing projects. Following the definition and the structure of the method, an examination of its use in the health and social care sector takes place. The importance of participation in the professional understanding of social work, as well as the causes and consequences of a lack of implementation of participatory practice, are then explored. The potential of the method to promote participation in social work is discussed.
Through the presentation of the implementation of an own “Design Thinking” workshop, with subsequent data collection through problem-centered, guideline-based interviews, changes in the perception and anticipation of, as well as the desire for participation of clients and professionals became clear. The application of Design Thinking has led to an increase in critical thinking on the part of the clients and a better ability to imagine an implemented, participatory practice. Among professionals, there was an intensification of the fear of losing structure, in the context of promoting participatory practice.
Among other things, this fear was grounded in the lack of their own opportunities for co-determination. Nevertheless, an increase in critical reflection on structures and a clear vision of participatory practice was evident.
The use of design thinking workshops to promote participation thus represents an effective possibility in social work practice. However, this must be complemented by professional support of the process, in the form of further training on the topic of participation, as well as supervised support of professionals and clients. Future practice research should focus on further qualitative studies on the application of DT in health and social care in order to find out which aspects of the method cause this change in the attitude of the participants.