RSD7 Keynote Speakers

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

Luigi Bistagnino

Systemic Approach generates a new cultural paradigm

The Fibonacci’s sequence (also called “golden ratio”), indicates a sequence such that each number, starting from the third, is the sum of the previous two. The beginning of the sequence is thus:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1.597, 2.584, 4.181, 6.765, 10.946. 17.711, 28.647 …

This sequence (present in various natural forms such as in beehives, in the arrangement of leaves on a branch, in sunflower seeds and in the development of the shell spirals) surprises us with its rapid development, which quickly achieves truly considerable numbers. Each number represents itself a quantity, or a specific dimension, which however acquires a different value in the whole of its continuous additive relationships.

In the same way, the actions we daily perform seem to concern only us or a limited area of interest. Rather, they are part of a totality of actions that grow on a context, from a little region to the whole world.

On that view of mutual relationships, the value of what we do is essential and the approach we have becomes fundamental. With an individual approach people, things and situations will be separated both from each other and from their context, generating acquisitions, strong contrasts, conflicts, speculations and destruction. On the other hand, by achieving a more spontaneous vision of relationships with the others and the surroundings, a new positive system of life and use of resources is obtained, aiming at the common good and not just at the individual.

The Systemic Approach, in fact, is a new way of acting based on two simple guidelines:
– to activate positive relationships between the various subjects (people, activities),
– to manage resources, so that the outputs of a system are the input of another one.

In this way, the totality of relationships and flows of matter in transformation generates a new social, cultural, ethical and productive system. This will create a new economy in which everyone is involved and actively participates.

Consider the relationships in a collaborative way connects the single units into a cohesive whole, in which the strength of all becomes the strength of each one. The different components, linked in collective action, perform a single little action that exponentially becomes great.

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Pille Bunnell

With a Grain of Salt

My intent with the title is to evoke a listening through the double meaning of “salis” implicit in Pliny’s original phrase “addito salis grano.” The word “salis” not only refers salt, it also refers to wit. I am exploring the idea that acting with wit and intelligence means we should not take our models of the world too seriously. Models and frameworks enable us to make sense in the same way that a map helps us navigate, but unlike physical maps where there is a correspondence between land and notation, our conceptual territories are cultural and dynamic, so our maps (models, frameworks) should be used with a grain of salt and we should be willing to adapt them. This adaptive cognitive process is evident in the evolution of ideas related to the adaptive cycle, namely around patterns of the development and disintegration of systems.

I thus follow the evolution of some of the insights associated with the adaptive cycle. Resilient systems arise through an interplay of transformation and persistence in a shifting balance between the internal connections required for the system to be a system, and the external ones that enable it to persist in a context. As systems arise and disintegrate they do so embedded in and interacting with other dynamic systems at other spatial and temporal scales. As they intersect and interact they become a panarchy rather than a hierarchy.

As a second thread I weave in an awareness that we humans are the ones who develop the concepts that I present, (including this one about developing concepts) and that we do this through our recursive and recurrent consensual coordinations of actions and ideas in language and culture. In tracing how we may have developed ever more complex sets of distinctions and how we live these as our various realities, I note that we can easily find ourselves living in a name-based and somewhat rigid sense of reality. Thus our realities may also be seen to exist as adaptive cycles. Further, in any of these realities those regularities of experience that are not named disappear from our thinking and are very difficult to re-evoke or define in language. However, I note that our cognitive abilities are not limited to language, we also exist in an internal panarchy of relationships that resonate with the external panarchy in ways that we may become aware of as we implicitly operate in a panarchic interplay of design cycles.

I conclude the presentation with a deeply held desire. I would like us humans to remain the kind of beings who live in reflexive awareness of our systemic dynamic flow in a relational embeddedness.

Chido Govera

The Future of Hope: Social care for sustainable living

The presentation explores approaches and interventions implemented by The Future of Hope Foundation (TFoHF) to engage marginalized members of society, specifically women and girls in Zimbabwe. With limited resources and many heavy responsibilities as well as lack of exposure to innovative initiatives, vulnerable women, girls and orphans in communities are unable to engage in socio-economic development and to reach their full potential. They are in a continuous struggle just to survive.  In a country where almost 10% of the population is orphans, 70% of the population lives in extreme poverty and political and economic turmoil are on the rise there is need for innovative interventions to enable these vulnerable groups to sufficiently provide for their primary needs and concerns as this is the foundation to achieve sustainable living.  

TFoHF leverages agro-biomass, the most abundant resource in most poor communities, to secure sustainable livelihoods and incomes through their Mushroom based Integrated Food Production System (Mushroom based IFPS). The Mushroom based IFPS addresses many challenges facing vulnerable women and girls. Of special note are issues relating to land ownership, control of own food and income source as well as access to market. By harnessing the power of collaboration, TFoHF is able to mobilize community women as mentors for young girls orphans and community leaders to support community Mushroom based initiatives from initiation stage to market linkages. These collaborations provide the base for building healthy Communities where children, women and all of life, can thrive in peace, freedom and happiness – healthy Communities that nurture and promote good ethics, good education, good health and care for the natural ecosystems. Responsible engagement, accountability and proactivity are modeled and prioritized over self-pity and victimhood.

To date, TFoHF has reached over 2000 people in Zimbabwe and built a model that can be easily replicable across the African continent and beyond. The work carried out over the years does not only serve to mark an end to victimhood through responsibly engaging orphans and vulnerable groups to become change agents and leaders but, it provides basis for research and further improvements of this initiative that has such great potential.

Roberto Iniguez Flores

Advanced Design cultures, a learning system perspective.

During the past decades the praxis of design has been extended, it has been increasing its areas of focus, from its traditional territories of a problem-solving activity that shapes products, communication and environments, to a broader practice that approaches more complex subjects, such as the social, territorial and organizational issues. In order to address the complexity of these new approaches design is evolving into a new cultures that are very diverse and emergent, these design cultures require a new characterization for its understanding. A way to approach this phenomenon is to observe the areas of focus or the “new” outputs that these practices are producing, certainly some authors have pointed out on these possible two ways to give understanding about them; I propose a third way to approach this issue, focused on its processes, carrying out qualitative and quantitative research methods to give understanding on how these advanced design cultures are generating new kind of design processes.

Some of the keys to give light on the advanced design processes are anticipation, strategies and competencies; advanced design processes are more anticipatory, they have a longer-term look because the design focus is on paradigms changing, they operate in the strategy level, because they switch from the traditional problem-solving approach to an opportunity-finding approach, and by doing this anticipatory, strategic processes they require (and develop) new skill and competencies. These advanced design competencies can be discriminated from the traditional design competencies, by using a learning system perspective we can be able to comprehend how design operates on this extended (or advanced) territories, and how individuals, groups and organization develop knowledge and expertise from its practices.

Making a historical review on the different points of view about design learning, this conference go from the seminal approaches of Schön´s reflection-in-action postulates, passing through the design management approaches form the 90´s, and Nelson´s expertise propositions, or Cross and Leifer design thinking examinations, this conference presents the framework for the competencies and knowledge generation inside the design processes. And by introducing the systems and information theory references presents a series of tools to observe and understand the phenomena of learning situated within the confines of the advanced design cultures.

Chelsea Mauldin

Policy Design & Decision Making

There’s a gap between the intended outcomes of policies and the lived experiences of people affected by those policies. This gap arises, in part, from differences in the decision-making of policymakers and members of the public. Policymakers are empowered – they control public resources and have a mandate to deliver services. Their professional training and the culture of government tends to be progress-minded, rational, and technocratic.

Meanwhile, the public they serve is often disempowered – by class, race, neighborhood, or life circumstance. Even privileged citizens often have limited engagement with government decision-making. Further, members of the public approach policy issues pragmatically, informed by both their cognitive load and their biological experience – both factors that policy is often loath to engage.

I’ll discuss how designers attempt to bridge this gap though interventions in the policy decision-making cycle – from preliminary problem recognition and agenda setting to policy implementation and evaluation – with specific reference to Public Policy Lab’s work with veterans dealing with mental-health issues, with low-income families seeking social services, and with applicants to social/affordable housing.

Next I’ll describe shortfalls of current design interventions in policy and service-delivery systems. First, designers often amplify complexity – but complexity burdens the poor, who have fewer resources to spend navigating it. Second, designers seek to reform the state’s engagement with the public, but replicate the state’s extractive posture: we collect peoples’ stories, harvest their life experiences for our gain, even engage them in co-design, where their labor becomes our deliverable. Third, by working inside systems, designers accept status quo inequality. At our best, we engage in meaningful research and design with marginalized peoples. But collaboration does not compensate for systemic racism and poverty.

To conclude, I’ll propose that designers engaged in policy and systems change design new, adjacent policy systems, rather than to continue to renovate broken policies; recognize the primacy and requirements of the human body, as mechanism through which people engage with and are affected by policy systems; and more consciously identify and address imbalances in power in the systems in which we intercede.

Sketch of Chelsea Mauldin's speech

Gunter Pauli

Re-designing the framework: think natural, think local

Our current world is afflicted by complex and wicked problems such as the climate change, the high rate of poverty and hunger, the unsustainability of the market. From energy production to soil analysis, we have to change the dogmas we are working with, we have to change the business models and the hypothesis we are believing. What can we do better? How can we design a better way forward?

We must re-design the framework conditions.

First, starting by using what is locally available. We have to turn the local resources into a strategy that also generates jobs and the opportunity to keep the value inside the local economy. The model of inspiration is the nature and this is at the basis of the blue economy. It is necessary to shift from our linear business model to another one that thinks in terms of “cascades” of nutrients and energy.

Secondly, the logic of the Blue economy includes the logic of putting the nature back onto its evolution path. This means that the companies must secure the conditions to let the environment to restore its self-organizing conditions. This will ensure the resilience of the system, that is a condition we urgently need in order to face with the environmental uncertainties.

Systemic Designers can have a key role in redesigning the framework conditions since they are able to think in a systemic way. They can help to understand, among other things, the flows, the energy, the feedback loops, in order to interconnect elements and design a self-organizing system. At this scope, it is necessary to create the conditions of more cooperation among different fields (science, university, entrepreneurs, economy) and put them in a framework more linked with society and communities. Education has a central role on this matter, because it is responsible to inspire the young people and expose them to different opportunities.

We need to re-think, re-build, re-born the way we think and the way we are inspiring children so that we can have a common future. We need to shift our business models and start designing the real world that nature and humanity deserves.