4| Territorial Metabolism and Flourishing Economies

Proceedings of RSD7, Relating Systems Thinking and Design 7
Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy  23th-26th October 2018

Section content 

Ambrogio F., Comino E., Dominici L., Rosso M.
The use of water for technical development or technical development for the use of water?

Battistoni C., Barbero S.
Systemic Design for territorial development: ecosystem to support autopoietic local economies

Bofylatos S., Kampasi I., Spyrou T.
Designing resilient creative communities through biomimetic service design

Bozzola M., De Giorgi C.
Packaging reconditioned household appliances

Bucci D., Franconi A., Piovesan F., Tagliazucchi S.
Analyzing OvestLab’s collaborative regeneration process through a systemic design lens

Cattozzo L., Marotta L.
Landscapes and systemic design: Po river Delta (Italy) case

Giraldo Nohra C., Barbero S.
Post-industrial areas on the lens of systemic design towards flourishing urban resilience

Lambiase N.
Mapping the Circle. Systemic analysis of the experiences of circular economy in Italy through an app

Lemos Oliveira Mendonça R. M., Ribeiro de Mello E. M., de Oliveira Nery S., Horacio M. P., Romeiro Filho E.
Systemic network around education and community gardens

Schaus M.
Narrative and Value: Authorship in the story of money

Toso D., Luthe T., Kiss T.
The Systemic Design approach applied to water treatment in the alpine region

Varanasi U.
Life conservation; A study into systemic design for wildlife

The use of water for technical development or technical development for the use of water?

Fabio Ambrogio 1, Elena Comino 2, Laura Dominici 2, Maurizio Rosso 1,2
1, Studio Rosso Ingegneri Associati
2, Politecnico di Torino

Urban ecology
Systemic water management
Clean blue energy
Local resource

Nowadays in the global context, the use of water resources for daily acti­vities is one of the main topic discussed by the international community. This paper presents a required reflection on paradigm shift toward an awa­re water management. As we know, in the past, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, water power plays a crucial role in early stages of indu­strialization. Waterwheels was applied in many industrial sectors, as in tex­tile, iron and wood production, improving manufacturing processes and af­fecting economic, environmental, social and cultural structure of societies. Water power is one of the most known renewable energy and scientific and technological innovations lead toward the introduction of new machines. Many industrial sites and cities were developed near rivers, lakes and other watersheds and citizens improved technical solutions to manage water re­sources for producing hydroelectric power.

Considering the global goals of the Agenda 2030, especially the SDG 6, focu­sed on providing sustainable management of water and on fighting water scarcity, and the SDG 7, focused on ensuring renewable and clean energy, we need to tackle some of main current issues to move toward sustainabili­ty. Many other examples suggest that we need to consider that the develop­ment of human communities depends by the availability of water resources and also to undertake considerable actions for a sustainable use.

Water power is considered one of the most ancient type of clean and su­stainable energy and it provides many benefits for local citizens, as redu­cing water and air pollution and enhancing local resources. Hydroelectric power includes both large-scale hydroelectric dams and small run-of-the-river plants and the construction of hydroelectric power stations depends by the topography of the land. On the other hands the construction of new hydroelectric facilities might impact the environment in land use changing and also in preserve aquatic wildlife’s ecosystems. In some cases in large water reservoirs the amount of nutrients and sediments might increase, changing habitats and conditions for animal and plant life and increasing greenhouse gasses emissions. On one way some targets expressed by the SDG 6 (e.g. 6.6) regards the protection and the restoration of water-related ecosystems, as rivers and lakes, and on the other way some of them focus on the development of innovative technologies for wastewater treatment (e.g. 6.A). We need to look at these issues in a systemic view and to apply the systems thinking approach in water management practices to sustain local communities.

A systemic approach to hydroelectric power considers the impact in design practice of dams on natural ecosystems and urban contexts and it tries to reduce negative effects through the application of ecological principles.
Eco­logical Engineering practice works to provide benefits for humans, to pre­serve natural ecosystems (Bergen, Bolton, Fridley, 2001) and it designs in­tegrated systems (Mitsch & Jørgensen, 1989; Mitsch, 1996). In the ecological and systemic thinking, we shouldn’t consider water only like a resource for human benefits, but it is also habitat for other species of plants and animals.

In this paper we would present benefits provided by small-scale
hydroe­lectric facilities through a case study made in the urban context. It under­lines how a natural and local resource, as water of urban river, can be used in order to “produce” systemic services for human being, in a sustainable way. Some of these benefits are the protection of biodiversity of riparian ecosystem and the reduction of environmental impact and noise and air pollution.

Mini-hydro power presents many advantages as the dependence by natural flow of watercourse, the low relative cost of the system and possible ap­plications in remote areas. It creates new opportunities for rural and isolated communities but also reduce the environmental impact in urban and subur­ban areas. The use of this local and natural resource for micro hydroelectric power contributes to increase urban metabolism, producing clean energy that can be used in the local context.

The case study here presented is a low heat hydroelectric power plant that was developed in Turin urban city center, in Regio Parco district, an histo­rical interest area. During the 20th century in this district were established one of the oldest Italian manufacture, Manifattura Tabacchi, and the main lighting company of Turin. The small scale hydroelectric power plant is lo­cated in the Dora Riparia river, known for its importance, in 20th century, in generating hydroelectric power for local manufactures in Vanchiglia and Dora disctricts. The aim of the project is to recover the existing weir intake structure, that in XIX century was used to deflect a part of water’s cour­se into Regio Parco canal for energy supply of local manufactures. It was technically transformed in a inflatable weir used to produce hydroelectric power, placed in electric grid of the city, and to reduce the urban flood risk.

Considering the purpose to preserve river ecosystem, the project has plan­ned to establish a fish ladder in vertical slot to facilitate fishes’ natural mi­gration. It is also designed to reduce the environmental impact on landsca­pe, local vegetation and urban noise. We need to apply systems thinking for providing benefits for humans and at the same time preserving ecosystems and enhancing historical pre-industrial heritage. Managing local resources and providing benefits for the whole context is important to promote sustai­nable urban metabolism, through the application of the holistic viewpoint. Urban context and natural river ecosystem are complex systems and design in-for-with them is a practice to undertake in a systemic view. Finally this paper’s purpose is to show how systems thinking and ecological principles can be applied to face one of the most important challenge of our time: pro­duce clean and sustainable energy in site and reduce its ecological footprint.


Arnold, R. S., Wade, J. P. (2015). A definition of Systems Thinking: A Systems Approach. Elsevier: Computer Science 44, 669-678.

Bergen, S. D., Bolton, S. M., Fridley, J. L. (2001). Design principles for ecological engineering . Elsevier: Ecological Engineering 18, 201 – 211.

Decker, E., Elliot, S., Smith, F., Blake, D., & Rowland, F. S. (2000). Energy and material flow through the urban ecosystem. Energy Environment, 25, 685-740.

Mitsch, W. J. (1996). Ecological Engineering: A New Paradigm for Engineers and Ecologists. In P. C. Schulze (Ed.), Engineering with ecological constraints. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Tischner, U. (2015). Design for sustainability, strategies, methods and tools. In P. Stebbing, U. Tischner (Ed.), Changing Paradigms: design for a sustainable future. Cumulus Think Tank. Publication No 1 of the Think Tank Series from the Cumulus Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media. Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

Violet, P. L. (2017). From the water wheel to turbines and hydroelectricity. Technological evolutions and revolutions. C. R. Mechanique 345, 570-580.

Systemic design for territorial development: ecosystem to support autopoietic local economies

Battistoni Chiara, Barbero Silvia.
Politecnico di Torino

Systemic design
Manufacturing sector
Sustainable development
Business incubators

This research wants to demonstrate the need and the importance of the cre­ation of an ecosystem to support the implementation of projects born from Systemic Design (SD) approach. The leading cause behind it is mainly rela­ted to difficult and complex implementation and the success of this type of projects in practical terms. However, they have specific characteristics that can tackle critical current challenges identified by many scholars as climate change, waste production, limitation of natural resources and pollution. For this reason, it is vital to sustain and foster their implementation.

To demonstrate this thesis, we firstly analysed previous SD projects applied to the manufacturing sectors developed in Politecnico di Torino to under­stand the principal barriers in their implementation. These projects are related to specific economic and productive realities (e.g. Barbero, 2016) or many realities in specific territories – intended as geographical areas – (e.g. Battistoni, 2016). This process was facilitated thanks to the direct involve­ment of authors in these projects. The result is that SD demonstrates to be able to connect the territory, design and environmental issue. The design discipline with its methodology and approaches has just confirmed to be a solution for the valorisation of the material culture and natural resources of a specific territory (De Giorgi, 2008; Catania, 2011). SD enlarges the borders of the traditional design discipline producing a step forward the eco-design. Indeed, SD approach applied to the single activities permits to change their core business, improving and increasing their incomes, considering waste as resources as in the Blue Economy (Pauli, 2010). Moreover, this approach permits the creation of new products that in some cases let the born of new economic realities, generating the autopoiesis typical of the natural systems as defined by Maturana and Varela (Capra, 1996) (see fig.1). All these oppor­tunities can boost sustainable territorial development, creating a local cir­cular economy.

Moreover, this analysis highlighted important characteristics of SD projects that are more than the five principal guidelines previously defined as Output-Input, Relationships, Act locally, Autopoiesis, Man at the centre of the project (Bistagnino, 2011). At the same time, they can represent the bar­riers to their success and implementation. The main reason is that they re­quired, at the basis, a cultural paradigm shift (Barbero,2016), from the linear to the systemic thinking, from competition to collaboration, identified just by Capra as a “the turning point” (Capra,1982). In this framework, complexi­ty results one of the SD projects fundamental characteristic as they focus on the relationships between components instead of the single entities and on the resources which go in and out of a production process. Talking about input/output and not resour­ces/waste, the focus is more on qualitative aspects than on quantitative ones. Another consideration that is possible to make from this analysis is that SD projects are community-oriented, territorial-oriented and environ­ment-oriented more than profit-oriented. Producing environmental sustai­nability, with implications on the economic and social one, they require the competences of different disciplines, multiple actors and stakeholders, both in the design phase than in their implementation, being multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary projects. Last but not least, they require financial sup­port, human resources and project management as all the projects. The cur­rent emphasis on the Circular Economy from the European Union is luckily helping to bridge this gap since 2015 (EU, 2015).

Once settled these characteristics, in a post-Anthropocene era becomes ne­cessary the design of an ecosystem (ECO-SD) (see fig.2) able to stimulate and foster the born and the implementation of innovative systemic projects. In­deed, the concept of the complex adaptive system that comes from biology is starting to be used by the business environment (Reeves, 2016). Looking at the territory and its productive sectors with a systemic appro­ach, shifting the attention from the single actors to the relationships that are possible to create among them, is possible to obtain different results. As the theory of system suggests “the whole is GREATER than the sum of its parts” (Aristotle), or better “the whole is OTHER than the sum of its parts” from Gestalt theory (Koffka). This shift can let emerge several new
opportu­nities and potentialities linked to a development which is far away from the current economic evidence, centred exclusively to the increase of the GDP. Acting in this way is possible to answer to the real needs of a specific area, with the final goal to act on the cultural paradigm, obtaining a real sustai­nable development.

The core of this ecosystem cannot be identified in the current incubators of start-ups which are concentrated mainly on the economic sustainability of the projects and the training of the future entrepreneurs within linear eco­nomy benchmarks. Instead, it is a systemic incubator with the goal to foster the born and the reproduction of productive processes and act as an open system. In here, also the economists should think in another way as Rawor­th suggested (Raworth, 2017). In the ECO-SD, the attention is on the flow of information, matter and energy which create relationship both inside every single process and within them, and within the context of reference where it is placed.

The heart of ECO-SD is the research centre which acts as a guide: starting from the execution of the Holistic Diagnosis (Battistoni 2017, 2018), it can identify the current significant problems and the sectors where projects are needed. Opening the way to the innovation of process, products and ser­vices, that are therefore designed and implemented by multidisciplinary groups. In this case, the designers collaborate with other scholars and exper­ts coming from the natural, social and economic science, acting as “media­tor” (Celaschi, 2008), fostering the dialogue and the contamination. Working together for the implementation of the new projects, they should maintain the link with the local actors, not exclusively coming from the productive sector but also from the decision-making, to assure a local development in line with the policy design.


Barbero, S. (2017). Systemic Design Method Guide for Policymaking: a Circular Europe on the way. Torino; Allemandi.

Barbero, S., Bistagnino L., Peruccio P.P. (2016). Awareness. In Bistagnino, L. (2016). microMACRO, 168-175. Milano; ed. Ambiente.

Barbero S., Battistoni C., (2016). From the sustainable biscuit production to territorial development through systemic incubator. In: 8th International Scientific Conference Management of Technology – Step to Sustainable Production (MOTSP 2016), Porec (HR), 01–03 June, 2016

Battistoni, C., Barbero, S. (2018). The Holistic Diagnosis as a method to support urban mining actions: the case study of the European project Retrace for Piedmont region (Italy). In: 4th symposium on urban mining and circular economy (SUM 2018), Bergamo (IT), 21-23 May, 2018.

Battistoni, C., Giraldo, N. C. (2017). The Retrace Holistic Diagnosis. In: Barbero S. (2017).
Systemic Design Method Guide for Policymaking: a Circular Europe on the way. Torino; Allemandi.

Battistoni, C., Daghero, A. (2016). High Sangone Valley (Turin), The territorial potentialities. In Bistagnino,L. (2016). microMACRO, 371-398. Milano; ed. Ambiente.

Battistoni, C., Bicocca, M., & Pallaro, A. (2016). Social values, economic, ethical and well-being. In Bistagnino, L. (2016). microMACRO, 176-207. Milano; ed. Ambiente.

Battistoni, C., Ferru, A., & Pallaro, A. (2016). Valle Anzasca e Val Chisone. In Bistagnino, L. (2016). microMACRO, 399-423. Milano; ed. Ambiente.

Bistagnino, L., Celaschi, F., & Germak, C. (2008). Man at the center of the project. Torino; Allemandi. Bistagnino, L. (2016). microMACRO. Milano; ed. Ambiente. 2° edition

Bistagnino, L. (2011). Systemic Design, designing the productive and environmental sustainability. Bra, Italy; Slow Food. 2° edition.

Catania, A. (2011). Design, territorio e sostenibilità: ricerca e innovazione per la valorizzazione delle risorse locali. Milano; Angeli.

Capra, F. (1982). The turning point. New York; Bantam Books

Capra F. (1996). The web of life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems. Doubleday, New York; Anchor Books.

Capra, F., Luisi P. (2014). The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. Cambridge, UK; Cambridge University Press.

Celaschi, F. (2008). Design as a mediation between areas of knowledge. In Bistagnino, L.

Celaschi, F., Germak, C., (2008). Man at the center of the project. Torino; Allemandi.

De Giorgi, C., Germak, C. (2008). Manufatto: artigianato, comunità, design. Milano; ed. Silvana.

European Commission. Closing the Loop—An EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy; COM (2015) 614 final; European Commission: Brussels, Belgium, 2015.

Pauli, G. (2010). The Blue economy, report to the club of Rome. Taos, New Mexico; Paradigm Publications. Raworth K. (2017). Donought economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. London; Penguin random house.

Reeves, M., Levin, S., & Ueda, D. (2016). The biology of corporate survival. Harvard Business Review, 94(1), 2.


Click here to download the working paper

Designing resilient creative communities through biomimetic service design

Spyros Bofylatos, Ioulia Kampasi, Thomas Spyrou
University of the Aegean

Design for sustainability
Service design

Creative communities are grassroots, bottom-up initiatives of people who through their diffuse design capacity propose new, desirable service futures that address the problems of their everyday life. The solutions designed by these communities provide a much-needed alternative to the breakdowns of the top-down sociotechnical support systems that were meant to address these needs. These creative communities exist within a transition from mo­dernity towards sustainment, the next epoch of human development. The adversarial character of these systems causes them to embody alternative values such as conviviality, solidarity, openness and shift the focus from growth to flourishing (Ehrenfeld, 2008). Not only are the systems of values adopted by these communities more compatible with sustainability they also challenge a hierarchical order. Such action is collective rather than in­dividual. It concerns a group of people who have been presupposed unequal by a particular hierarchical order, as well as those in solidarity with them, acting as though they were indeed equal to those above them in the order, and thus disrupting the social order itself.

What is disrupted are not only the power arrangements of the social order, but, and more deeply, the perceptual and epistemic underpinnings of that order. Such a disruption is what Rancière calls a “dissensus” (2010). A dis­sensus is not merely a disagreement about the justice of particular social arrangements, it is also the revelation of the contingency of the entire per­ceptual and conceptual order in which such arrangements are embedded, the contingency of what Rancière calls the partition or distribution of the sensible (le partage du sensible) (Rancière, 2010). Increasing the variety of these systems is a necessary perquisite to both overcome control from the hegemonic ideology (law of requisite variety) as well as to increase the resi­lience of these systems.

Resilience is defined as the capacity of a system to retain its organisational closure while absorbing external perturbations (Walker and Salt, 2012). The sociotechnical system that is a creative community creating social innova­tion faces constant threats due to the collapse of traditional support structu­res and their disruptive, adversarial character. Identifying strategies to in­crease the capacity of any system to resist external forces are necessary to ensure their survival in a time of unprecedented environmental and social pressures but in the context of the wider transitions towards sustainment and the necessary reconstitution of the domains of everyday life.

In order to create the strategies necessary, we turn to nature for inspiration and mentoring. Biomimisis is a framework that designs solutions inspired by biological systems. It opens up possibilities of seeing the way nature wor­ks, teaches and informs arts and sciences (Sanchez Ruano, 2016). It encou­rages deeper studies in order to arrive at technologies and strategies that may be achieved through interdisciplinary dialogues. Ecosystems display differing degrees of resilience. Understanding the strategies developed by nature to increase the resilience of eco-systems is a first step. Identifying and reframing these solutions can foster the resilience necessary for creati­ve communities to flourish. The emerging fields of biomimetic design of ser­vices can support the evolution of service design (Ivanova, 2014). methods in the context of social innovation and shift the underlying assumptions behind the decisions made. Biomimisis has proven a robust methodology for the development of solutions in the fields of material engineering and product design, applying lessons from nature is a frontier for service design and the creation of resilient organisations.

We argue that permaculture, an agroecological systemic design tradition (Cassel, 2015), provides an interesting direction for the development and re­search in the context of social innovation. In contrast to monoculture where only one type of value is the goal of the system, permaculture provides a systemic view that is focused in fostering virtuous cycles and cooperation between different symbiotic systems. Looking at creative communities as an interconnected ecosystem instead of discrete systems provides a different avenue for increasing their resilience and capability for flourishing by crea­ting positive feedback within a wider ecosystem of bottom up initiatives on both a local and global level.

This paper aims to identify strategies from different permaculture systems to approaches that when applied in sociotechnical systems lead to increased resilience. Applying these through designs can provide a way to reconstitute the domains of everyday life (Kossoff, 2015) and transition towards sustai­nability in some grassroots, distributed way. At the same time these diffe­rent ways of looking at provide a direction that seems to provide an answer to many emerging issues in the context of service design within a systems thinking framework.

In order to elaborate the strategies recognised the ‘Apano Meria’ Social en­terprise will be analysed with respect to the relationships between different focus groups and how these can increase the overall resilience of the system. The object of this case study is a collection of different creative communi­ties with various interests but connected by a common theme: enabling the flourishing of the island of Syros. In order to achieve this goal three main themes have been adopted: the environment, culture and people. Each of these themes is made up of different special interest groups that are inter­connected both within the theme and in the wider scope of the community. For example, in the context of the environment different groups of people are working with the fauna and the flora while a different team looks at issues of marine ecology. Additionally, a different community studies the unique geological characteristics of the island. All of these teams are in an open dialogue amongst them and with the legal team that either informs them of legal framework or translates their wants and need to law propo­sals. Understanding the flows of information, the juxtaposition of people in different roles as well as increasing the overall diffuse design capacity of the participants in the social enterprise is the first step in creating a resilient or­ganisation. Identifying relevant biological models that create virtuous cycles and translating these to design strategies will increase variety, resilience and the contingency between different people and communities.


Ivanova, D. (2014), Biomimetic Services. A new perspective on the design for services, (Master’s Thesis) Ravensbourne University, London

Sanchez Ruano, D. (2016), Symbiotic Design Practice Designing with-in nature, (PhD Dissertation) University of Dundee Rancière, J. (2015). Dissensus: On politics and aesthetics.

Rancière, J. (2015). Dissensus: On politics and aesthetics. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Cassel, J. B. (2015) Permaculture as a Systemic Design Practice, contributions, Challenges and New Developments. In Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD4) 2015 Symposium. Banff, Canada, September 1-3, 2015.

Walker, B. & Salt, D. (2012). Resilience thinking: sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world. Island Press.

Ehrenfeld, J. (2008). Sustainability by design: A subversive strategy for transforming our consumer culture. Yale University Press.


Click here to download the working paper

Packaging reconditioned household appliances

Marco Bozzola, Claudia De Giorgi
Politecnico di Torino

Household appliances
Social engagement

This article aims to present a research and design work that focuses on exploring new possible approaches to packaging design as applied to the field of reconditioning and reintroducing old household appliances to the market.
The work developed by the research group from the Politecnico di Torino – Design, in particular, is part of a research agreement signed with Astelav, a Piedmontese company based in Nichelino (Turin) and a leading distributor of components and spare parts for household appliances, in partnership with Turin-based Sermig, a non-profit organisation that aims to provide people marginalised by unemployment, social and financial problems with hospitality and both social and job support.

The company recently launched the Ri-Generation project alongside Sermig. This involves reconditioning used white goods (washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, ovens, etc.) by intercepting the WEEE (Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment) supply chain as well as encouraging socially marginalised people to gain new skills whilst assisting specialised technicians in reconditioning appliances. The work involves the replacement of damaged or broken parts, a cleaning process, followed by the product’s placement on the market. It is an example of a circular economy that helps prevent the accumulation of waste in landfills, offers old products a new lease of life and new added value and, at the same time, creates new economies and new employment and social rehabilitation opportunities for people in difficult socio-economic circumstances.

In such a scenario, the design work carried out attempts to develop new systems for the protection, transportation, presentation and sale of these used, salvaged and reconditioned products, so as to allow them to be distributed on the market, as well as to communicate their own particular image during the sales process. It is a very unusual packaging project because, apart from anything else, every product sold is different from the other, even if they share common characteristics.
The design challenge was tackled both in terms of its functional and marketing aspects, but also in line with a wider cultural paradigm that envisages the fine-tuning of a veritable system of activities and relationships that, in keeping with the characteristics of the Ri-Generation project, can generate innovation and sustainability at different levels: at a social level, by involving disadvantaged people and social cooperatives in packaging assembly; at an environmental level, by salvaging old clothes to create the padding; at a production level, by specially training and organising personnel; and at a linguistic level, by applying new modes and registers of expression that stem from experimentation, particularly in the artistic field.

The new packaging design takes its cue from the use of the waste materials that Sermig receives on a daily basis through private donations, particularly second-hand clothes that are sorted, selected and then redistributed to people who are experiencing social and financial difficulties. The items of clothing that are damaged, ripped or worn out can be salvaged and, if properly processed, can be turned into efficient packaging systems. Garments are cut up and put together following clear procedural guidelines, and then positioned and sewn inside polyethylene tubes, creating a sort of “padded fabric” that is both waterproof and resistant and can wrap up and protect an appliance during the transport, storage and sales phases. The final product makes a strong impression: patches of clothing in different fabrics and colours surround the appliance, creating what looks like a cloth cube. Whilst it surprises and intrigues the viewer, it also expresses a narrative at different levels: an item of clothing that symbolises a product (a washing machine) declares its function at an emotive level whilst at the same time expressing the salvaging of a waste product, which is the principle that underpins the Ri-Generation project.

Since the most significant environmental problem for packaging systems is indeed related to the need to prevent waste before its production, the value of this salvaging process is further stressed by the reusability once it has finished transporting the appliance after sale. The information sheets included and the packaging’s own graphics suggest a “catalogue” of possible alternative uses (the protection of accessories and furnishings during house moves or for storing items in attics and warehouses, garage wall padding, informal poufs, pet cushions, picnic blanket undersheets, etc.).

The product’s fine-tuning has involved Sermig personnel (supervisors and guests) and Astelav employees and some social cooperatives during a number of workshops coordinated by the Polito research group, designed to test the production methods and skills of people both joining and leaving the packaging production process. The packaging is assembled by social cooperatives, who are suitably trained using the above-mentioned direct experimentation and partial co-designing phases.

To date – having completed the production development, prototype and trial phases – the project is now preparing a pre-series of dozens of items that will be tested during their transportation and sale to consumers. The resulting feedback from these activities will allow the project’s organisers to streamline packaging production methods and the entire sales supply chain.

Among the possible outcomes foreseen, action designed to divulge this project in order to turn it into a repeatable or reinterpretable example of best practices is envisaged, as well as the promotion of the project’s cultural merits. Such action includes:

• The declinations of the semi-finished product: the defined packaging system, could be considered as a new semi-finished product which, when suitably reshaped, that means it could also be used as packaging in other product sectors;
• The curatorship and creation of an exhibition to be put on display: the design of possible display concepts that could be shown at exhibitions and sustainable packaging trade fairs or used for creating a tailor-made event dedicated to Ri-Generation’s case history;
• The creation of a special section on the Ri-Generation website: creating text, images, animation, etc. that can present the partnership with the Politecnico di Torino, the design process and the scientific and cultural value of the packaging design process;
• The creation of a narrative: a sustainable packaging case history could be the focus of a story told by a lively, abridged publication that could be distributed at particular events designed to promote the initiative and the Ri-Generation project’s work.


Click here to download the working paper

Analyzing OvestLab’s collaborative regeneration process through a systemic design lens

Daniele Bucci 1, Alessio Franconi 2, Federico Piovesan 3, Silvia Tagliazucchi 4
1, Politecnico di Milano
2, Università Iuav di Venezia
3, Politecnico di Torino
4, Università di Ferrara

Circular economy
Systemic approach
Meso level
Environmental impact
Close loop system

Our contribution is based on a case study of the systemic, human-centered and iterative approach employed by OvestLab, Modena, and reflects on relevant implications for the implementation of a circular economy in Italy.
OvestLab is an ongoing experimentation that contributes to current debates within academia, local administrations and civil society on urban vacants, namely buildings and spaces that are no longer serving their purpose as places of production, market exchange and social interaction. It also shows how a circular approach to commerce, supported by interdisciplinary expertise, can ensure sustained revenues, reduce material consumption and address territorial changes due to complex variable forces, such as technological innovations and market volatility. Finally, OvestLab offers an example of how knowledge exchange with similar initiatives in other countries, enabled by an online platform, fosters interterritorial learning that is beneficial to all parties involved.
From a methodological point of view our analysis is informed by two main sources. Firstly, one of the authors has been involved with OvestLab from its inception, both as part of the executive board in one of the associations responsible for the project, and as a member of a local artist collective. Secondly, we integrated her description and reflection with documents written both as intermediary outputs for the project or by other actors not directly involved with OvestLab.

Located in the West part of Modena, OvestLab is part of the city’s Villaggio Artigiano (Artisans Village), which for many years represented a virtuous example of collaboration between the local administration and small private enterprises. Since the 2008 financial crisis, however, the Village experienced significant socio-economic decline, which was exacerbated by an increase in vacant buildings that served both residential and productive purposes.
OvestLab is based in a former factory that, after closing ten years ago, has recently been requalified to become a hub for local open spaces and shared initiatives that address a number of multifaceted territorial issues, among which the lack of public spaces. The project is led by two associations, namely Amigdala and the Archivio Architetti Cesare Leonardi.
Conceptually, OvestLab wants to promote initiatives that are founded on the sense of community shared by local stakeholders (which is undoubtedly fragmented but still present); that reflect upon alternative imaginaries to guide actions addressing both ecological and economic issues; and that propose new symbolic and cultural meanings to spaces that can support the resilience of the territory and its community.

To analyze the collaborative actions currently ongoing as part of the Village’s regeneration process, we draw a number of theoretical guidelines from systemic design literature:

• An evaluation of the regeneration process not only through its final output but also the intermediate steps that led to it while at a meso level, defining the processes and circular design skills necessary to reverse the obsolescence of urban vacants and spaces.
• How new interactions that originate from a node within the urban fabric to create a network of new relations, can be more inclusive of previously unengaged citizens, and activate new social dynamics that are valuable for the local community.
• How processes of distributed governance among local stakeholders foster a sense of community while offering new spaces that local actors can adapt to their needs and characteristics.
• How allowing local communities to autonomously define and manage their relation to the space favors new forms of autopoiesis within organizations and transdisciplinary cultural projects managed in a decentralized fashion.
• How a spontaneous phenomenological structure that values action over planning can be employed to work iteratively and better adapt the reactions of the context while also promoting latent potential and resources, which may already be present in the territory or can be integrated with it.
• How working daily at the change of the local reality while also seeking dialogical opportunities with actors that operate at different territorial scales (regional, national and European) enables mutual learning and adds value both within the local community and the extraterritorial one.

Our aim is to contextualize these concepts through the analysis of the following actions:

• Supporting a number of initiatives – namely local gruppi di acquisto solidale (GAS, ethical purchasing groups), Genuino Clandestino and Alimentazione Ribelle – who aim at reducing food waste and promote distributed food production that revolves around local producers. This is an example of how local actors are adapting the space according to their specific necessity.
• Using furniture produced with recycled or reused materials during workshops that promote upcycling and artisanal practices and engage citizens of all ages.
• Creating, together with CivicWise and Ostello San Filippo Neri, a platform for distributed accommodation that capitalizes on the availability of vacant and underused buildings; thus applying the recycle and reuse ethos not only to product but also service design.
• Publishing a collaborative magazine to build a collective narration of the project and foster mutual learning among people of different ages, backgrounds and professions that include local actors as well as external collaborators.
• OvestLab is part of CivicFactories, an international network of territorial experimentations on urban regeneration, which includes initiatives in Paris, Valencia and Santa Cruz. This allows the local community to communicate and share best practices, which are informed by direct learning feedbacks and are enabled by CivicWise’s P2P online platform for glocal learning.


Akinade, Olugbenga O., Lukumon O. Oyedele, Saheed O. Ajayi, Muhammad Bilal, Hafiz A.

Alaka, Hakeem A. Owolabi, Sururah A. Bello, Babatunde E. Jaiyeoba, and Kabir O. Kadiri. 2017. “Design for Deconstruction (DfD): Critical Success Factors for Diverting End-of-Life Waste from Landfills.” Waste Management, Special Thematic Issue: Urban Mining and Circular Economy, 60 (February): 3–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2016.08.017.

Amigdala (2018) http://www.perifericofestival.it/ accesso 15 maggio 2018

Archivio Architetto Cesare Leonardi (2018) http://www.archivioleonardi.it/it/associazione/ accesso 15 maggio 2018

Barbero, Silvia, Brunella Cozzo, and Paolo Tamborrini. 2009. Ecodesign. Mul edizione. New York: ULLMANN.

Bistagnino, L. (2009). Design Sistemico. Slow Food Editore. Torino.

Bianchetti C. (ed.) (2014) Territori della condivisione. Una nuova città (Quodlibet, Macerata)

Casona (2018) https://comunitavillaggio.wordpress.com/ accesso 15 maggio 2018

Capra, F. (2002) The Hidden Connections: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social

Cellamare C. (2011) Progettualità dell’agire urbano (Carocci Editore, Roma)

CivicWise (2018) https://civicwise.org/ accesso 15 maggio 2018 CivicWise (in fase di pubblicazione) Co-design Fabbrica Civica

Inti I., Cantaluppi G. and Persichino M. (2014) Temporiuso. Manuale per il riuso tempora­neo di spazi in abbandono, in Italia (Altreconomia edizioni, Milano)

Comune di Modena (2003) I Villaggi artigiani. L’invenzione Dei Villaggi Artigiani. Gover­no del territorio e sviluppo economico nell’esperienza modenese (Nuovagrafica, Modena)

Costa A. (2004) ‘Villaggio Artigiano’ in Montedoro L. (ed.) La città razionalista. Modelli e frammenti – Urbanistica e architettura a Modena 1931-1965 (rfm edizioni, Modena)

Dimensions of Life Into a Science of Sustainability. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Elia, Valerio, Maria Grazia Gnoni, and Fabiana Tornese. 2017. “Measuring Circular Eco­nomy Strategies through Index Methods: A Critical Analysis.” Journal of Cleaner Pro­duction 142, Part 4 (January): 2741–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.10.196.

Ghisellini, Patrizia, Catia Cialani, and Sergio Ulgiati. 2016. “A Review on Circular Eco­nomy: The Expected Transition to a Balanced Interplay of Environmental and Economic Systems.” Journal of Cleaner Production, Towards Post Fossil Carbon Societies: Regene­rative and Preventative Eco-Industrial Development, 114 (February): 11–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.09.007.

Manzini, E. (2018). Politiche del Quotidiano. Edizioni di Comunità, Che Fare. Milano. Me­adows, D. (2008). Thinking in Systems. Chelsea Green Publishing.

Marzot N. (2016) ‘Aporie dei Beni Comuni’, Paesaggio Urbano 1-2016, 5-7

Maturana, H.R., Varela, F. J. (1991).Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Li­ving. Springer Science & Business Media.

Ryan, Alex. 2014. “A Framework for Systemic Design.” Form Akademisk – Research Jour­nal of Design and Design Education 7 (4). https://journals.hioa.no/index.php/formakade­misk/article/view/787.

Tagliazucchi S. (2017) ‘Site-specific performances to create new points of view about a critical area’ in Colomer V., Colomer J., Portalés A., Urios D. (ed.) City and territory in the Globalization Age | 24th ISUF International Conference – book of abstracts (Editorial Uni­versitat Politècnica de València, 2017), 258

Tagliazucchi S. (2017) ‘Tactical and strategical urbanism: the combination of different methodologies related to a morphological form of the street in the historical city’ in Nen­cini D. (ed) LEARNING FROM ROME Historical Cities and Contemporary Design 3rd ISUF ITALY| International Seminar on Urban Form – book of abstracts (ISUF ITALY| Internatio­nal Seminar on Urban Fom, Roma), 75

Landscapes and systemic design: Po river Delta (Italy) case

Luisa Cattozzo 1, Leonardo Marotta 2
1, IUAV di Venezia
2, Studio Associato Entropia

Landscape ecology
Landscape/seascape metabolism
Geographical systemic design
Blue economy

Po Delta is World Heritage since 1999 and MaB Unesco Biosphere Reserve since 2015. In this area, regenerative coastal landscapes are proposed. Those landscapes are that restore the environment and encourage long-term sustainability, increased biodiversity, and enhanced resilience. A well-designed regenerative landscape can also complement property value, reduce water and maintenance costs, and create seamless, yet visually pleasing, harmony with surrounding natural open spaces.
In this area impacts of climate change can be easy predicted effects, it is clear that a more resilient landscape will be imperative if local society are to adapt and respond to the challenges of the future. Robust ecosystems underpin resilience in landscape function. To achieve these, healthy soils, dune recover, better use and conservation of available rainfall, pragmatic use of vegetation and groundcover, and increasing biodiversity are key.

The necessity of matching structural expressions of ecological integrity with cultural perceptions is particularly highlighted, by reference to the cultural bases for landscape perception and management (Nassauer, 1997), the landscape archetypes (Bell, 1999), and to the concepts of cultural and ecotone landscapes (Farina, 2006). These are examined for their potential role in creating a new synthesis of nature and culture.
Development of a realistic vision for Systemic Design in a regenerative landscape depends upon understanding the peculiar circumstances of its physical geography and biogeography linked to local history, culture and economic system (Bistagnino, 2011). The regeneration is based on scenarios of potential vegetation and hemerobiotic state of an area (the magnitude of the deviation from the potential natural vegetation caused by human activities, see Eurostat, 2017). The regeneration is also based on integration between Firms, Agricultural and wild habitats in order to reach a Blue Economy approach (Pauli, 2017).

The Blue economy concepts and the Circular economy agenda, as a set of strategic objectives, offer principles and guidance to identify blue economy potential for Po river Delta and its urban, landscape and coastal processes.
Following systemic design approach, the local economy will be based on:
• coastal landscape regeneration;
• production of new materials (paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed);
• increasing resilience to climatic changes, sea level rise;
• design a new production environment with a Biofactory system integrating food, material and energy production. Proposed system (based on rice, hemp, wood, weeds, and shells) can be developed into a variety of commercial items including chemicals, paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.

Analysis of the state-of-art and configuration of sustainable development scenarios have been performed by adopting the approach of Geograhical Systemic Design: This allows local solutions to be addressed locally.

We have also built some project proposals in details: they go in the direction of re-generating agricultural lands. They can be considered as a sort of business model, that means that the benefits by migration from business-as-usual to new ecological based business models has been defined, by given the numbers of economical value outcomes.
These are long-term solutions as we wanted to contribute to improve the resilience of the studied area.
Project proposals are inspired by the Blue Economy and can be summarised as follows:

The beach dunes and beach areas can be rebuild using only a reshaping of areas and beach management.
In the back-dune area the regenerate wetlands (dominated by Phragmites australis) will became a multifunctional ecotope, acting from water depuration to salt intrusion barrier. In this area a regenerative agriculture is also based in aquaculture waste recycling (Morris et al, 2018) is integrated into design of a new ecosystem mosaic: rice (Oryza sativa) – traditional in the Po river Delta agriculture landscape – and hemp cultivation (Cannabis sativa) can be integrated with phramites grooves and willow shrubs.
A Quercus ilex forests and psammophyl vegetation in coastal areas can be redesigned in rural landscape. The dunes can be built as is mainly due to successional stages linked to it, herbaceous vegetation of grey dunes and mantles using mollusc aquaculture waste (production of calcareous shells from Mytilus galloprovincialis, Venerupis decussata, Tapes philippinarum).
The rice and hemp will be integrated with grassland with Vicia faba var. Minor in order to regenerate agriculture and integrate it with pasture activities (Ovis aries). Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) will be growth in new woodlands (Quercus ilex forests).

Some of the benefits of proposed scenarios include:
• Reduction of flooding and sea storms risks.
• Effective erosion control.
• Reduced water consumption.
• Reduced maintenance costs and increasing local growth economy.
• Increased natural capital and ecosystem value.
• Elimination of chemical use.
• Reduced visual impact of development.
• Better soil conditions due to the use of native plants.

Soil health can be be built; depletion cannot be rectified by adding chemical elements to address identified symptoms. Carbon is a master variable within soil that controls many processes, such as development of soil structure, water storage and nutrient cycling. Every gram of soil organic carbon can hold up to 8 grams of water. Every regenerated are can increase from 3 to 5 tons of soil organic carbon per hectare.


Bell, S., 1999. Landscape: Pattern, Perception, and Process, Taylor & Francis, London, 344 p.

Bistagnino, L., 2011. Systemic Design: Designing the productive and environmental su­stainability, 2nd ed., Slow Food, Bra, 292 p.

Eurostat, 2017. Glossary: Hemeroby index http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explai­ned/index.php/Glossary:Hemeroby_index

Farina, A., 2006. Principles and Methods in Landscape Ecology:Towards a Science of the Landscape, Springer, Hedelberg, Berlin, 412

Morris J. P., T. Backeljau G. Chapelle, 2018. Shells from aquaculture: a valuable bioma­terial, not a nuisance waste product, Reviews in Aquaculture, https://doi.org/10.1111/raq.12225

Nassauer, J., 1997. Placing Nature: Culture and Landscape Ecology. Island Press, Washin­gton DC, 202 p.

Pauli, G., 2017. The Blue Economy 3.0: The marriage of science, innovation and entrepre­neurship creates a new business model that transforms society. XLibris, Sydney, 275 p.


Click here to download the working paper

Post-industrial areas on the lens of systemic design towards flourishing urban resilience

Carolina Giraldo Nohra, Silvia Barbero
Politecnico di Torino

Systemic Design
Circular Economy
Urban transitions
Sustainable development
Post-industrial Resilience

Contemporary worldwide economy has evolved into a global multidimensional process that manifests itself in cities through radical changes in human population densities and urban fabric. Such transformations are so rapid that cities are lag behind to cope with the demands of the market and population. Although this drastic shift has left many formerly manufacture/extractive cities with deprived and outdated urban fabric, this has resulted in the rise of post-industrial cities (ICLEI, 2018). Such accelerated changes have to lead the acknowledgment of these urban environments as challenging precincts to address sustainable development issues (Bulkeley et al., 2011). Parallel to this, focusing on the post-industrial legacy as ‘hubs’ for radical innovation towards more resilient cities (Ernstson et al., 2010a; Bulkeley and Broto, 2012).

On that view, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) trace an relevant roadmap for the post-industrial urban environment. Taking a deeper overview of the SDG 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and SDG 12 “Ensuring sustainable consumption and growth patterns”, cities will have to assemble for a long-term transition to a Circular Economy (CE) in order prevail over the systemic effects of deindustrialization. Taking into account that , “Cities are not actors; they are places where people and economic activities are concentrated; complex social, economic and physical systems” (Otto-Zimmermann, 2011), from a design point of view, it is very likely to undertake such areas with anticipatory approaches, such as design thinking, participatory and systemic perspectives (Buchanan, 1992). To prove how the combination of technology, design and social organization are generating new mechanisms to regenerate these deprived areas. These processes facing the local and global challenges on such precincts must enable a shift in the way they have been undertaken, it is important to introduce a profound holistic vision which can make more comprehensible the complexity of urban context (Grimm et al. 2000; Mehmood 2010; Newman 1999). “The more complex the network is, the more complex its pattern of interconnections, the more resilient it will be of our context” ( Capra, 1996). On this critical urban fabric, how can these scenarios reach an inclusive, sustainable and cohesive urban transitions, that can decrease future economic, environmental and social costs, but at the same time strengthening economic competitiveness? How can territorial thinking in post-industrial areas foster frameworks to address the current environmental and economic challenges of society?

Such post-industrial areas regarded as living metabolism or “systems of systems” are on the need to search for resilience in order to tackle climate change and its economic impact. To empower urban transitions in those scenarios it requires design approaches on innovative strategies, services, and governance that support access to the regenerated areas while promoting social cohesion and flourishing local economies (Nevens, F, et al., 2013). Consequently, there is continuous support at the frontline of the cities agendas for a paradigm shift from the conventional linear to CE. As the aim of the CE is to regenerate the economy meaning to “keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles” (EMF, 2013). Given the current environmental and economic challenges of society, it is required innovative approaches to complexity on the urban environment, where the systemic one can be an efficient way to interpret and give solutions. On that view, cities will play an important role in a global transition to a CE (EMF, 2017).

Therefore, to pave the way to an efficient urban transition it’s needed new anticipatory approaches on sustainable development from a holistic and systemic point of view that create cohesive and smooth transition (Barbero, 2017). To enable this processes, the Systemic Design Approach (SDA) offers determined instruments for territorial thinking that allows to visualize and design the flow of material and energy from one element of the system to another, transforming outputs of one process into input for another one in order to obtain zero emissions and generating resilient territories (Bistagnino, 2011). This methodology generates new relations among the entities of a territory, enabling the visualization of the hidden assets which will promote a proactive synergy among local actors. Reactivating all source of territorial resources in order to anticipate a local development (Barbero,2012). The creation of such relationship network promotes a general wellness improvement in the community, activating a cash flow between the various system participants: “the cultural and value systems are so spontaneously redefined, with direct environmental benefits” (Bistagnino,2011). The SDA acknowledges territories to be understood in a holistic overview, encouraging proactive collaboration among local actors and simultaneously generating innovative decision-making strategies to conceive future productive activities sustainably.

Following that approach, the SDA is understood as one of the most effective expertise on enhance future CE strategies and to find innovative anticipative paths for urban transformation, economic restoration, and social cohesion. Achieving an effective CE vision which generates a wide range of services fostering local resources and therefore urban transitions (EMF, 2017). Such CE strategies are synthesized by the EMF on the ReSOLVE framework on six business actions: Regenerate, Share, Optimize, Loop, Virtualize and Exchange. Furthermore, translated by Prendeville et al., 2018 on a conceptual framework of a Circular City which delivers an overview from which to understand the ways CE could demonstrate in an urban environment.

Based on the previous, to allow an effective approach towards Circular City framework (CCF), the SDA through a Holistic Diagnosis (HD) tool delivers an anticipatory instrument for territorial development, that delivers new starting point for system mapping (Battistoni, Giraldo Nohra, 2017). Enabling an overview of such complex urban scenarios, in order to trigger a new economic model that arises from the appraisal of the resources offered by on post-industrial cities. Through a transdisciplinary approach, it invites actors from different sectors such as governments, civil society, and industry to co-create CCF strategies undertaking bottom-up and top-down. Allowing all local stakeholders to pull different economic activities that coexist to deliver social and economic welfare, which are the impacts of the CE fostering urban transitions. On the quest of flourishing resilience in cities, How can territorial thinking in post-industrial areas foster CCF to address the current environmental and economic challenges of society?

This paper aims to delve into a better comprehension on the SDA tool HD to identify CE strategies which are economically self-sustaining and which supply flourishing livelihoods for the economic, ecological and social regeneration of deprived urban areas result of deindustrialization processes. To exemplify this, it is intended to examine the case study of the post-industrial area of Mirafiori sud in Turin, Italy. Focusing on the results of HD study approached in the area which was tailored to the characteristics of the precinct to deliver systemic approaches for urban transitions within CCF strategies that can be cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. As a result of this holistic overview, it is aimed to foster urban resilience by delivering innovative strategies addressing new economies shared between public authorities, civil societies, and industry/SMEs.

Moreover, this paper broadens the results of the HD analysis on Mirafiori area on the lens of CCF at multiple levels such as : (a) On the technical level based on the components of the urban metabolism networks through which will result in the creation or redesign of local, circular supply chains (b) On the social level enabling citizen-based ownership of local resources on post-industrial areas. Through co-designing, co-creating, and co-implementing of the CCF in partnership with local stakeholders, who will participate in the development of new protocols for the integration of CE strategies. (c) On the economic level through systemic approaches boosting circular business models for products and services, the output will be a framework with strategies for post-industrial areas highlighting market opportunities and public-private partnership models for circular productive activities (d) At Policymaking level these results will aim to change local policies on post-industrial areas and, fostering a better governance and disseminate innovative solutions towards a CE.

According to this, the need for territorial thinking on complex phenomena scenarios can be an efficient way to interpret and give solutions. In order overcome the systemic effects of de-industrialization and reactivate economic growth, post-industrial cities have had to reactivate their urban fabric through circular strategies, fostering a transition into a productive and stimulating place to live and work in that would restore residents’ sense of belonging and attract investment. Moreover, the SDA it is poised to be an instrument which benefits all stakeholders leading them to paths where all can reach an effective sustainable development creating new scenarios of economic profit and cooperation (Barbero, 2017). Eventually, this holistic approaches on post-industrial precincts such as Mirafiori shall foster urban transitions and evolve the current planning and policy environment, as a result, the design and implementation of city development strategies on CE. On that context, this expertise pretends to turn into a role model methodology for cities with industrial legacy. Fostering local actors towards sustainable development and better governance, disseminating innovative solutions to reinvent and shape more cohesive post-industrial cities.


Barbero, S. (Ed.) (2017). Systemic Design Method Guide for Policymaking: A Circular Euro­pe on the Way. Turin, Italy: Allemandi.

Barbero, S. (2012). Systemic Energy Networks Vol. 1. The Theory of Systemic Design Ap­plied to the Energy Sector. Morrisville, North Carolina, USA: Lulu Enterprises, Inc, Ralei­gh.

Battistoni, C., Giraldo Nohra C. (2017). The RETRACE Holistic Diagnosis. In Barbero, S. (Ed.). Systemic Design Method Guide for Policymaking: A Circular Europe on the Way. (pp. 112-120) Turin, Italy: Allemandi.

Bistagnino, L. (2011). Systemic Design: Designing the Productive and Environmental Su­stainability. Bra (CN), Italy: Slow Food.

Bulkeley, H., Castán Broto, V., Maassen, A., et al., 2011. Governing low carbon transi­tions. In: Bulkeley (Ed.), Cities and Low Carbon Transitions. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, London and New York, pp. 29e

Bulkeley, H., Broto, V.C., 2012. Government by experiment? Global cities and the gover­ning of climate change. Trans. Inst. Br. Geographers, 1e14.

Capra, F. (1996). The web of life (pp. 153-171). Audio Renaissance Tapes.

EMF, (2015). Delivering the Circular Economy: A Toolkit for Policymakers, Available at: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications.

EMF, (2013). Towards the Circular Economy: Opportunities for the Consumer Goods Sec­tor, Available at:https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications.

EMF, (2012). Towards the Circular Economy: Economic and Business Rationale for Accele­rated Transition, Available at:https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications.

Ernstson, H., van der Leeuw, S., Redman, C., Meffert, D., Davis, G., Alfsen, C., Elmqvist, T., 2010a. Urban transitions: on urban resilience and human- dominated ecosystems. Ambio 39, 531e545.

Grimm, N., M. Grove, S. Pickett, and C. Redman. (2000). Integrated approaches to long-term studies of urban ecological systems. Bio-Science 50(7): 571–584.

ICLEI (2018) Urban Transition Insights from Industrial Legacy Cities. Bonn, Germany.

Mehmood, A. (2010). On the history and potentials of evolutionary metaphors in urban planning. Planning Theory 9(1): 63–87.

Nevens, F., Frantzeskaki, N., Gorissen, L., & Loorbach, D. (2013). Urban Transition Labs: co-creating transformative action for sustainable cities. Journal of Cleaner Production, 50, 111-122.

Newman, P. and I. Jennings. (2008). Cities as sustainable ecosystems: Principles and practices.Washington, DC, USA: Island Press.

Newman, P. W. G. (1999). Sustainability and cities: Extending the metabolism model. Landscape and Urban Planning 44(4): 219–226.

Hjorth P. and Bagheri A., (2006). Navigating towards sustainable development: a system dynamic approach. Futures 38, 74-92. Elsevier.

Otto-Zimmermann, K., 2011. Embarking on Global Environmental Governance. In: Thou­ghts on the Inclusion of Local Governments and Other Stakeholders in Safeguarding the Global Environment. ICLEI Paper 2011-1. URL: http://www. stakeholderforum.org/filead­min/files/ICLEI_Global_Governance_Local_Govt_ Zimmerman.pdf.

Murray, A., Skene, K., and Haynes, K. (2015). The Circular Economy: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Concept and Application in a Global Context. Journal of Business Ethi­cs, vol. 140, no. 3, 369–80. doi: 10.1007/ s10551-015-2693-2.

Prendeville, S., Cherim, E., & Bocken, N. (2018). Circular cities: mapping six cities in transi­tion. Environmental innovation and societal transitions, 26, 171-194.

Ruggieri, A., Braccini, A.M., Poponi, S., Mosconi, E.M. (2016). A Meta-Model of Inter-Orga­nisational Cooperation for the Transition to a Circular Economy. Sustainability, 8 (1153), 1-17. doi:10.3390/su8111153.

Simon Boas et al. (2015). Delivering The Circular Economy: A Toolkit For Policymakers. Chicago, USA: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publisher. Available https://www.ellenma­carthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/ EllenMacArthurFoundation_Po­licymakerToolkit.pdf

Webster, K. (2015). The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows. Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing.


Click here to download the working paper

Mapping the Circle
Systemic analysis of the experiences of circular economy in Italy through an app

Lambiase Nadia
Università degli Studi di Torino

Transitioning to circular economy
Theory of complex systems
Circularity balance
New ways of communicating economic systems

The proposed analysis is conducted in the framework of the theory of complex systems (Telfner, Casadio, 2003): following the paradigm of complexity, suggested by the systemic approach, means in fact making interact and analyzing the relationships between open systems, in this case the biological systems, from which the idea of circular production processes has also been borrowed (Stahel, 1982; Braungart, Mc Donough, 2003), and the economic-social ones (Georgescu-Roegen, 2003), since «never as today the link between ecological sustainability and economic-social sustainability has became clear “(Bonaiuti, 2003, p.42).

The first objective is therefore to create, starting from the data of the app Mercato Circolare, a photograph of the Italian economic-social system linked to the circular economy, highlighting its actors, roles and relationships. Photography becomes the basis of a comparison between the characteristics of this system and those of biological systems, verifying the plausibility of the anchoring of some principles of the economic-social system to the biological ones. To give just a few examples: presence of a plurality of ends and not maximization of a single variable; presence of a combination of competitive behaviors (in expansion contexts) and cooperative (in equilibrium contexts); impossibility of the part to control everything; endowment of a feedback system.

The second objective is to investigate whether it is possible to activate and sustain territorial synergies aimed at defining districts (Becattini, 2000) and network systems capable of transforming a series of problems typical of the national productive system into economic, environmental and social opportunities.
Assuming that the Italian circular economy system can have the characteristics of a complex system, since the complexity of a system is given by the architectural configuration that assumes the whole, it is inevitable to deal with the network category. In particular, the research intends to verify whether, as for complex systems, the Italian circular economy system also presents itself as a phenomenon endowed with a combination of multiplicity and autonomy (Telfner, Casadio, 2003). Autonomy is what makes such self-referential or autopoietic systems (Maturana, Varela, 1985) so that their primary functioning is moved towards self-renewal. In the same way, for the districts and circular socio-economic systems, one wonders whether it is possible, starting from what the territory offers, following a cascade model (Pauli, 2015) and exploiting the principles of physics, satisfying the primary needs locals.
The model of autopoiesis also becomes useful to describe the dynamics between node and network. In fact, an autopoietic system is not independent from the external environment: it speaks, rather, of an operational closure understood as the ability to select the inputs that arrive externally and therefore to fully control its internal organization, ie the invariant part, to protect its own identity.

Methodologically, the research develops through the elaboration of questionnaires, site visits, internet research and bibliography, identifying four sectors of analysis, starting from the app’s structure: businesses, products, civil society and cultural events. Mercato Circolare already records almost 400 activities (95% in Italy), of which 53% are businesses, 18% products, 14% cultural events and 15% institutions or experiences of active citizenship.
For all the sectors of analysis, except for cultural events, the same fields are investigated: the start year, the legal nature of the entity, the flow of the supSystemic
analysis of the experiences of circular economy in Italy through an app
ply chain and traceability, the business model and the relative comparison with the reference markets, the value generated in environmental, social and cultural terms, and finally the motivation.
As regards the supply chain flow, for each company we intend to create a visualization of flows and production processes: design (materials and production); supply; logistics; sale; use; and end of life. In this way we intend to visualize the traceability of the process / product. The purpose of traceability is to offer an identity to the goods / service by making known the history and the subjects who participated in its transformation and realization. The design of the flow of the supply chain allows, subsequently, to identify the reality being analyzed with one or more types of economic models of circular economy (Lacy, Rutqvust, Lamonica, 2016): circular supply chain from the beginning; recovery, reuse and recycling of resources; lengthening of the product life; sharing platforms, and produced as a service.

For the evaluation of the value generated we intend to focus on environmental value, through the formulation of a multiple indicator of circularity, as suggested also by the Public Consultation Document prepared by the Ministry of the Environment in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development (July 2017). In this way it is possible to obtain a circularity balance related to an organization, a product, a service, or territory, which guarantees greater transparency, enhancing virtuous actions and unmasking “green washing” operations. With this in mind, it is important not only to highlight the real value generated in environmental terms, but also in social (inclusion) and cultural terms (promotion of the common good), thus deepening the theme of the motivation behind the start of an enterprise, product, service, or event inspired by the principles of circular economy.

The category of cultural events, on the other hand, is analyzed, also through the time and nature variables of the organizing body, and then through an analysis of the cultural offer proposed in terms of audience development and capacity building in relation to the circular economy issues.
In addition to the four sectors mentioned above, always taking advantage of the app data, it is considered interesting to explore a fifth category of analysis, consumers, made up of users of the app. Once a statistically significant number has been reached, it is intended to delve into three issues. The first two concern the way in which the app became known and the verification of previous knowledge of what the circular economy was. This is to verify the ability of the app to spread and expand in non-homologous contexts to its cultural reference domain. The third question is related to the effectiveness of the app: how much is actually perceived as useful by the user and how much it contributes to directing expenditure towards the circular economy.


Becattini G.(2000), Dal distretto industriale allo sviluppo locale, Bollati Boringhieri.

Becchetti L., (2012), Il mercato siamo noi, Bruno Mondadori.

Bonaiuti, (2003), Introduzione, in N. GEORGESCU- ROEGEN, Bioeconomia. Verso un’al­tra economia ecologicamente e socialmente sostenibile, (a cura di M. BONAIUTI), Bollati Boringhieri.

Braungart M., Mc Donough W., (2003), Dalla culla alla culla: come conciliare tutela dell’ambiente, equità sociale e sviluppo, Blu Edizioni.

Georgescu-Roegen N.,(2003) Bioeconomia. Verso un’altra economia ecologicamente e so­cialmente sostenibile, (a cura di M. BONAIUTI), Bollati Boringhieri.

Lacy P., Rubqvist J., Lamonica B., (2016), Circular economy. Dallo spreco al valore, Egea.

Maturana H., Varela F., (1985) Autopoiesi e cognizione. La realizzazione del vivente, Pa­dova, Marsilio, 1985, cit. in G. DEMATTEIS, Possibilità e limiti dello sviluppo locale, p. 53, in G. BECCANTINI, F. SFORZI., (2002), Lezioni sullo sviluppo locale, Torino, Rosenberg & Sellier.

Magnaghi A., (2000), Il progetto locale, Bollati Boringhieri.

Ministero Dell’ambiente E Della Tutela Del Territorio E Del Mare,

Ministero Dello Sviluppo Economico, (2017) Verso un modello di economia circolare per l’Italia. Documento di inquadramento e posizionamento strategico.

Pauli G., (2015), Blue economy 2.0, Edizioni Ambiente. STAHEL, W. R., (1982) Product Life factor – http://www.product-life.org/en/major-publications/the-product-life-factor

Telfener U., Casadio L., (a cura di), (2003), Sistemica. Voci e percorsi della complessità, Bollati Boringhieri.

Systemic network around education and community gardens

Rosangela Miriam Mendonca 1, Edimeia Maria Ribeiro de Mello 2, Samantha Nery 1, Marcos Paulo Horacio 3, Eduardo Romeiro Filho 1
1, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – UFMG
2, Centro Universitario UNA
3, Universidade do Estado de Minas Gerais – UEMG

Systemic Design
Social Economy
Solidarity Economy
Brazilian communities

Working with Systemic Design during four years in Brazil we have been able to make some connections between different productive agents, having as a starting point the relationship among our academic activities and the movement of Community Gardens. Agriculture and nutrition are some of the society’s fundamental pillars, also considering the context of the brazilian economy and, for that, these themes have been considered to be a good starting point to spread the Systemic Design principles.

Motivated by the Brazilian Law n. 9.795, from April 27th, 1999, that establishes the National Environmental Education Policy, the environmental education is considered “an essential and enduring component of national education and must be articulated at all levels and modalities of the educational process, both formal and non-formal”. For this, the graduate course in Visual Arts, offered at the Design School of the State University of Minas Gerais (ED-UEMG), that forms art teachers of basic education, has in its program the discipline “Special Topics in Environmental Education”. We also offer academic extension activities with short courses on vegetable and flower urban gardens in small spaces that create, within the university, a dialog on different aspects of Design, on products lifecycle, new Economies (such as the Distributed Economy and Sharing Economy), and to promote exchanges between the academic community and the society.

Considering the intertwined nature of the environmental issues to its social and economic aspects the main purpose of the discipline is fostering Systemic Networks of Integral Endeavours.
An Integral Endeavour is any productive activity (be it performed by an industry, a household, an individual or the nature) that operates considering its holistic relations and is grounded on integral sustainable values (that is, works aiming at having social, economic and environmental resources enough to provide indefinite duration of the activity). It defines goals and builds networks, based on Systemic Design principles: 1) generating zero waste, by using the output (waste) of a system as the input (resource) of another one, optimizing the use of resources, creating an increase of cash flow and also new job opportunities; 2) identifying and fostering relationships, since the components of the network have common values and interests, and due to the recognition of the importance of connections of multiple areas of knowledge and performance; 3) being self-productive, sustaining itself defining its own paths of action and the joint coevolution of the elements of the system, all of which with equivalent importance; 4) giving special value to the local context and resources (human, cultural and material), which contribute to solving local problems and create new opportunities; 5) place people in the centre of projects, that is, valuing people over products, being the contribution to the quality of life, with inclusion and accessibility, more important than the production of goods.

As the discipline is very interactive, with students also bringing their experience to the classroom, some very rich opportunities arise. A very interesting one is evolving as the connection among the communities of four slums in different areas of Belo Horizonte (the third most populated and developed city of Brazil), three universities and the urban planning institution from the local administration (URBEL). All four cases have in common the existence of a vacant area within the community, some residents that see it both as a threat if left unused and as an opportunity to make some action for the collectivity, and the opportunity of receiving the support of the academy and public administration, having cultural activities as a bond. In some cases, it is being built also opportunities of association with entrepreneurs.

The first community is in the area of “Morro das Pedras”. A student from the Visual Arts has invited us to give a workshop within the community to produce fertilizer from organic waste to enrich the soil of an area where there used to be some sheds that had been removed by local administration because it was beneath a high voltage powerline. In this area they have now a community vegetable garden, where 6 persons from the community make volunteer work donating 2 hours a day during working days and 5 hours on Saturdays. Organic waste, some seeds and seedlings are donated by 11 families that participate in the project in exchange for a weekly bag of vegetables distributed to the children of the local school that also participate in this movement. After about a year of development of the vegetable garden along with artistic and cultural activities, the community has won a contest for a financial support of the Brazil Foundation organization and one of the community leaders has won a photography contest with an image picturing the community. The values of Integral Endeavours have served as guidelines to define activities as well as style of leadership, community engagement, education and economic sustainability decisions.

The second community is in the area of “Santa Lucia”. It has also an area that, because of its geological risk has also been made vacant by local authorities, represented by a government organization called URBEL. Professors from a local private university (UNA) have been asked by locals to give support to make a community garden. From the partnership established among UNA, ED-UEMG and UFMG due to their common interests in research and extension projects, the group is working together with the community in this initiative, making collective actions (mutirões) and surveys to understand the culture of the community and their needs. It represents an interdisciplinary effort with the engagement of designers, architects, economists, sociologists, engineers, gastronomists, nutritionists, also with the support of URBEL, bringing together human and material resources.

Throughout this work, a spontaneous management group has arised, establishing unprecedented interactions in the community, with the potential of increasing their social cohesion. From the principles of Integral Endeavors, Agroecology and Solidarity Economy, the group of residents, researchers and students have developed a series of collaborative actions, different from the capitalist market logic. At the same time, rich discussions about the principles of the vegetable gardens, its management and distribution of production are promoted, at the same time emphasizing the quality of what is being produced (healthy food, without pesticides) and the importance of the conscious consumption. It is noticed that some residents extended their autonomy and voice, because before they were shy and now, they can express themselves and realize interventions that are gradually transforming the space.

The third community is in the neighbourhood of Taquaril. In this case, URBEL has invited the academy (represented by UNA, UEMG and UFMG) to support some families to develop their urban gardens in a preservation area. There, the growth of dense bushes nearby the residences represented a danger to the families for hiding illicit activities as well as synanthropic animals that are a threat to human health. Since a retired resident had already expertise with agriculture, he should be the reference and inspiration for the neighbours. He is succeeding in creating a very productive space, although the neighbours are not quite engaged yet. Also, by practicing Integral Endeavors and Solidarity Economy values, we made a composting workshop with the families and are going to make activities to involve and foster collaboration within the community.

The fourth case is in the “Aglomerado da Serra”. There, there is a group that is rather independent, having already a practice of involving the community in the selective collect and organic compost making with and without worms. Some leaders of the community give workshops on this practice and sell boxes for vermiculture. We have participated as students in their workshop and afterwards have invited them to take part in a short extension course on vegetable and flower urban gardens that was offered by the ED-UEMG. Agroecological practices have been (are) the main focus of the group, as a way of life, along with healthy eating and income generation.

All these initiatives have as main objective the strengthening of social cohesion within the communities and of their autonomy to be reflected in self-management, broadening their collective identity and health promotion by food sovereignty, strengthening conscious agents, protagonists of relationships and of their living space. The theoretical foundations are the principles of Systemic Networks of Integral Endeavours, Agroecology for Food Sovereignty and Social and Solidarity Economy. Social inclusion, valorisation of diversity, exchange of academic and empirical knowledge are also cornerstones of our work.


Click here to download the working paper

Narrative and Value: Authorship in the Story of Money

Michael Schaus
OCAD University

Transaction design
Strategic narrative

This project was born from an earlier study exploring the bitcoin and blockchain community in Toronto. In that research, a sentiment kept coming up in the expert interviews; someone exploring these new blockchain-based monetary technologies would articulate something along the lines of “money is valuable because we agree it is valuable”, as a quickly visited precursor to discussing their perspective on some aspect of Fintech or new finance.

This study delves deeper into the idea that the value of money is sourced from a collective agreement that it is valuable. The study begins by framing that collective agreement as a narrative, or more precisely, as an “effective story”, defined by Yuval Noah Harari as “a story that many people believe.”
Using a hybrid model that combines Sohail Inayatullah’s 4-level, U-shaped Causal Layered Analysis (litany, system, worldview, myth) and a 4-level Computer Operating system model (user, application, OS, hardware) the project explores what that effective story/collective agreement is “about” towards an understanding of the values held by, or noticeably absent from, the most readily used monetary technology in the world; debt at interest, issued by a central authority, backed by the laws of a nation.

The combination of the CLA and a Computer Operating System model allowed for the leveraging of an idea from Douglas Rushkoff that compares the current debt-based financial system to a computer operating system with these attributes:

• Running in the background impacting everything in the system.
• In serious need of an upgrade. And;
• Its widespread use is perhaps concealing the possibility of other monetary technology solutions. Debt at interest is the monetary water we’re swimming in.

Connecting the worldview level in the CLA to the OS level in a computer operating system allowed, from the CLA perspective, a way to frame a worldview as a kind of technology or tool; a software or algorithm. From the computer operating system perspective, the hybrid combination allowed for a framing of software as a worldview or ideology; an effective story.
Within the study’s wider provocation of “How might we get really rich?”, the study then asks, how is the story of money, (the shared agreement of its value) created in its telling? Who is authoring this story? Where and how does the “telling” of the story of money take place? This framing suggests the monetized financial transaction as the base from which the story of the common currency is authored, as well as where the manifested value of that story is realized. The transaction is addressed as a tangible site to design for specific experiences, the attributes of which may, over time and exchange, correlate to the more preferable values we’d like money to hold.

In search of a framework to explore which attributes might be designed towards within the financial transaction (any transaction where two parties are using debt-based currency), the study looked at the arena of self-esteem. A literary review on the subject yielded these ideas:

• It is an internal valuation based on the relative levels of specific attributes including honesty, responsibility, integrity, trust, and others. The coherence or synergy of those attributes, as they are internally evaluated, are the self-esteem of a person.
• It is at a level of the “deepest vision of competence and worth”. It is a
130 |
truth, (perhaps concealed to the very person making the valuation), beneath any self-delusion.
• It is a human need, on the level of oxygen, and humans will attempt to fulfilll the need. The evaluation is made one way or another and if not through true sources then through false sources.
• If self-esteem is attempted to be fulfilled through false sources it creates an addictive cycle where actual self-esteem deteriorates and addiction dynamics intensify. The study looks at outside validation as one of these false sources, and money’s part to play in this dynamic.

The project considers self-esteem as a kind of asset, the building and ownership of which is the bedrock upon which value can be created. In the context of design, Bruce Mau articulates a similar idea with his thoughts on the studio and refers to it as “the project where all the other projects are created.”
How is this work a new way to communicate an economic system? The study brings up the question, how might the financial transaction be an engine for self- esteem? How might we consider the transaction itself as a venue to build self-esteem by increasing, by design, the propensity to experience and increase the components of the internal evaluation that is self-esteem. In this pursuit over time, the currency (or currencies) used to facilitate the financial transaction may come to hold alternative value(s).

Nathanial Branden frames the importance of self-esteem in this way: “We have reached a moment in history when self-esteem, which has always been a supremely important psychological need, has become an urgent economic need – the attribute imperative for adaptiveness to an increasingly complex, challenging, and competitive world.”
The solution model frames each of the individual experiences within the myriad of financial transactions as a piece of the source material in the story of money. This framing allows for a tangible place to design towards bringing more consciousness and alternative value(s) to the abstracted concept of value that connects to the common, debt-based currency. Over time and transactions, the hope is the iterative shifting of the monetary narrative from one of scarcity and insecurity to one more “about” an esteemed flourishing, one transactional incident at a time.

The possibility of a re-written story means a revised set of values held by the common currency. The widespread monoculture of money might then be a catalyst for change, as opposed to an entrenching tool for the status quo, as it spreads revised values, authored with increased intention and attention from more decentralized sources at the transaction level.


Click here to download the working paper

The systemic design approach applied to water treatment in the alpine region

Dario Toso 1, Tobias Luthe 2, Tibor Kiss 3
1, 2, MonViso Institute
3 University of Pécs

Systemic Design
Alternative Water treatment
Living Machine
Vortex Technology

Water is one of the most abundant resources on Earth and it is inextricably linked to life. In the Earth Complex System water can be considered as the matrix of life, water molecules are the 99% of molecules in human body and a water shell surrounds every ion and molecule in the biological system. The majority of natural phenomena involve water and our existence is dependent on this precious substance, or the lack of it. However water is limited and despite of its ability to self- cleaning along the water cycle, its quality is vulnerable and fragile. Hence, water scarcity and water pollution represent tremendous issues at global level that call for rapid solutions.

The here presented research refers to the Systemic Design (SD) approach applied to the design of the water treatment system at the MonViso Institute, a real-world mountain laboratory for research, education and entrepreneurship in sustainability transformations and Systemic Design located in the Italian Alps (Ostana – CN). The Alpine Region is a really unique environment very sensitive to climate changes and therefore it is an ideal place where setting a living lab for testing new approaches to the sustainable management of water resources.

The application of the SD methodology to the design of the water system entailed a focus on the understanding of the water behavior both at molecular and at macroscopic level. Therefore the SD methodology drove the research through an intense exploration of the complex properties of liquid water touching a variety of disciplines from physics to chemistry until bioengineering and medicine that has opened the frontiers to a more complete understanding of water.

Liquid water has been very well studied with a number of model structures having been proposed and refined (Wilhelm Roentgen, 1891; Bernal e Fowler, 1933; Franck e Wen, 1957; G. Nemethy e
H. Sheraga, 1962; John Pople, 1951; M. Mathouthi, 1986; Mu Shik Jhon, 2004; Martin Chaplin, 2000, Nilsson and Petterson, 2004; Del Giudice and Preparata, 1998; Stanley, 2013; etc.). However, extensively hydrogen-bonded liquid water is unique with a number of anomalous properties, and no single model is able to explain all of its properties, at least for now.

Theories and advanced models of liquid water are generally split among those that do not recognize a particular role in molecular water structure (Israelachvili, 2011), to those that provide an evidence of long-range ordering at room temperature (Pollack, 2013, et.al).
It has been shown that at a molecular level water does not have a homogeneous structure but rather is in dynamic equilibrium between the varying percentages of assemblies of different oligomers and polymers. The structure of these “clusters” or units themselves is dependent on temperature, pressure, and composition (Roy, 2005).

A previous PhD research project (Toso, 2015) has therefore focused on the investigation of these “emerging” properties with the aim of identifying innovative solutions for the treatment and use of water in accordance with the mechanisms through which it operates nature, valorizing water quality in a sustainable way. Part of the PhD research has investigated the water behavior at macroscopic level with a particular attention to the vortex technology.

The vortex is a classical dissipative system, a characteristic example of self-organization, which has been discussed by Prigogine (Prigogine, 1971). To trigger self-organization in a dissipative system we must create the right conditions. The stability of the vortices that can be observed manifests itself as a capacity for self-organization. These are turbulent fractal structures (Johansson, 2002).

To study the ability of vortex water to separate suspended solids a cylindrical device has been made in order to let water flow organizing itself into a vortex – a macroscopic structure has emerged spontaneously out of the flow. Lab testing proved a separation of Suspended Solids and Natural Organic Matter over the 95-98% in a single pass. (Toso, 2017)
Therefore, the research started from the exploration of the liquid water abilities in self-cleaning and self-organization at molecular level, and leaded to the design of a water system that drastically reconsiders the water usage at domestic level.
Thanks to a more holistic perspective on water it was possible to design a water system able to optimize water usage and to avoid harmful substances by taking advantage of the self-cleaning properties of water. The design concept here presented is based on the combination of the Vortex Water Technology and the Living Machine Technology.

The water system at the MVI has to supply 6 small buildings all over the year and eventually the watering of the plant growth area during Summer and Autumn. The water input comes from 3 spring water sources and also from meteoric water (both rain and snow). Seasonality is a huge variable in the water system that influences both input availability and water needs. Temperature also varies largely along the year: during winter time surficial water freezes, in spring time snow melting provides a large amount of water that needs to be collected and stored to sustain dry periods in the summer time.

The Water System at the MVI is designed to be self-sufficient and really connected to the territory. Therefore water has to be treated and used in a very efficient way and reused many times before letting it go to the Living Machine System that is the final waste water treatment stage of the MVI.

To properly design the water system the design phase is supported by a System dynamics model.

System dynamics (SDs) is a modelling tool which is used for discovering a system’s dynamic complexity. This modelling tool is used in several areas such as logistics (GUI Shouping et al., 2005) or urban economic growth in cities (Rusiawan et al. (2015), however, ecology is also the area where this method is often used (Mavrommati et al., 2014).

SD models can be built up with more development tools (Stella, Vensim), but here AnyLogic 7.3.6 is used.
Main elements of system dynamics are stocks and flows. In the case of a water system, we have built up the model around water tanks, that is the stocks are the water tanks (meteoric and spring water tank), and the flows are the inflow of meteoric water, the outflows are the use of meteoric water, such as washing, cleaning and toilet. The figure below shows this basic process. Spring water follows the same logic, where incoming waters (inflows) are the Fablab, Basecamp and Pond water, the outcoming waters (outflows) are cooking and drinking and personal care (e.g. shower). The grey water after shower goes to purification and will become as an inflow to the meteoric water. The final use of the used water is agriculture. The quantity of the water flow is calculated by the expected number of visitors.

This SD model can answer the following questions:

• The size of meteoric and spring water tanks for safe operation
• The effect of the expected number of visitors
• The possible shortage in meteoric and spring water
• The dynamics of the use of water
• The quantity of water, used for irrigation in agriculture.
The necessity of the use of dry toilets. The MVI water system is considered as a “living organism” where water is treated using chemical- free purification modules that take advantages of the biological based purification treatment from on hand and of the spontaneous solutes rejection in a free-vortex from the other.

The Systemic Design (SD) methodology here presented results as a supportive tool for helping the designer to look at the objective in its complexity and to organize all the actors of the project by giving them the ability to relate and evolve autonomously. As a consequence the individual parts of the system are intertwined, forming a virtuous network (autopoietic) of relations between the flows of matter, energy and information. In particular the SD methodology here adopted has been developed at Politecnico di Torino with the aim of implementing sustainable productive systems in which material and energy flows are designed so that waste from one productive process becomes input for other processes, avoiding being released into the environment. This model is inspired by the theoretical structure of generative science, according to which every modification in resources generates by-products, which represent an added value. Starting from the observation of natural phenomena, the SD approach aims to “learn from nature” not just for mimicking the natural technologies, but for designing a product system able to positively interact with a dynamic environment and an evolving society.


Bistagnino L. (2011) Systemic Design. Designing the productive and environmental sustainability, Slow Food® Editore srl, Bra – CN, 2011. ISBN 9788884992710

SMAT (2016), Corporate Social Responsibility Report

Geissen et al, (2015) Emerging pollutants in the environment: A challenge for water resource management,
International Soil and Water Conservation Research, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 57-65

Illich, I. (1986) H2O and the waters of forgetfulness, London, Marion Boyars

Van Aken, M. (2013) Acqua virtuale, H2O e la de-socializzazione dell’acqua. Un breve percorso antropologico. In: Antonelli M. and Greco F., L’acqua che mangiamo. Cos’è l’acqua virtuale e come la consumiamo. Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
Del Giudice E., Preparata G., (1998) A new QED picture of water: understanding a few fascinating phenomena – in the volume, Macroscopic Quantum Coherence, Singapore: (eds. Sassaroli et al.) World Scientific, 1998; 108-129

Rontgen, W.K. (1892) The structure of liquid water. Ann. Phys. 1892

F. Mallamace, C. Corsaro, and H. E. Stanley, (2013) Possible Relation of Water Structural Relaxation to Water Anomalies, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 4899-4904, 2013
Israelachvili, J. N. (2011) Intermolecular and surface forces (Third edition); Academic press, 2011

Davenas E., Beauvais F.,Amara J.,Oberbaum M.,Robinzon B., Miadonnai A.,Tedeschi A. ,Pomeranz B.,Fortner P.,Belon P.,Sainte-Laudy J., Poitevin J. & Benveniste J., (1988) Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE, Nature 333, 816-818 (30 June 1988)

Roy R., Tiller W.A., Bell I., Hoover M.R., (2005) The Structure Of Liquid Water; Novel Insights From Materials Research; Potential Relevance To Homeopathy, Materials Research Innovations, 2005; 9-4, 93- 124.

Del Giudice E., Tedeschi A. (2009) Water and the autocatalysis in living matter; Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 28, 46.

Zheng, J.; Pollack, G. H. , 2006. Solute Exclusion and Potential Distribution Near Hydrophilic Surfaces. In Water and the Cell; Pollack, G. H.; Cameron, I. L., Wheatley, D. N., Eds.; Springer: Netherlands, Dordrecht 2006; DOI 10.1007/1-4020-4927-7_8.

Prigogine, I.; Glansdorff, P. (1971) Thermodynamic theory of structures, stabilities and fluctuations, Wiley & Sons, London

Johansson L., Ovesen M., Hallberg C., (2002) Self-organizing Flow Technology in Viktor Schauberger’s Footsteps, IET Malmo, 2002; ISBN 91-631-2611-7 – ISSN 1651-4629

Laureano, P. (2001) The water atlas. Traditional knowledge to combat desertification. Bollati Boringhieri editore s.r.l., Torino

Alexandersson, O. (2002) Living Water — Viktor Schauberger and the Secrets of Natural Energy, Gill & MacMillan,

Toso D., (2017) New findings in water purification treatment: free vortex Technology. In: 12th Water Conference – Conference on the Physics, Chemistry and Biology of Water, Sofia, Bulgaria, 26 – 29 October, 2017

Toso Dario (2015), Visione Sistemica dell’Acqua. PhD Thesis in Ecodesign

Life conservation; A study into systemic design for wildlife

Uttishta Varanasi
National Institute of Design, India


The foundation for any flourishing system is balance; something that has been lacking in the modern Anthropocene era. While designing our future, we largely forget the other 99.99997% of inhabitants on this Earth. The paper answers the question of what design can do for wildlife.
Wildlife is mostly thought of as the tigers and elephants in the forests to the fish and crustaceans in the sea; creatures living in their own worlds far, far away in their own worlds. If we really begin to define wildlife, we will realise it includes beings we live with; sparrows, bees, butterflies and a whole multitude of other species we see in our day to day lives; and even more that affect us directly and indirectly.

Wildlife are an undervalued element of a sustainable future. They are inevitably linked to everything; be it the tourism, the healthcare, or the food industry. However, the investment in our wildlife is only a minuscule fraction as compared to the benefits reaped from it. The paper talks about the link between economic and ecological systems, and how we can create a flourishing sustainable economy by taking into account all life on Earth.
There is an understated interdependence between social and natural systems. While being a vital part of our economy, wildlife are also a vital part of several societies and cultures. There are also direct links between wildlife and human wellbeing and health, all of which are quantitatively and qualitatively proved in the paper.

Local context is as important as in any other system; with the huge diversity in habitats and natural ecosystems, there is also an equally large diversity in the socio-cultural and economic attitudes to wildlife. Geographies and manmade borders conflict with the natural ones. This makes the problem even more complex, and this complexity is further explored in this paper.

This project explores the roles of systemic design and research as a tool to create not only holistic solutions, but explore the right areas of intervention. The project’s main outcome included the creation of over 60 design briefs or opportunities for designers to get involved and fix the problems of wildlife. Work was also done to empower cooperation across different sectors that deal with wildlife; acts of co-creation and co-design between the government, non-government organisations, and the general society.

While this study is primarily focused in India, it has applications for wildlife and designers around the world. For a country that is developing at breakneck speed, it is vital that future policy design ensures a more sustainable future.

The involvement of the design industry can create fresh, new possibilities that benefit not only wildlife, but the humans that depend on them, directly and indirectly. It increases the scope of designers beyond aesthetic logos and functional chairs, to tackle larger, more systemic problems in the world we live in.