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Are Systems Changes Different from System + Change?

The Systems Changes Learning Circle has met at least every 3 weeks over the past year.  As part of an hour+ lecture to introduce systems thinking, students in the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University were immersed in questions where we’ve focused our attention, complemented by background into traditional foundational materials.  An audio recording has now been matched up with presentation slides, so that learners outside the classroom can partially share in the experience.

This lecture begins with the rising interest in “systems change”, that is related to “theory of change” from funders of social innovation programs.  From there, the lecture aims to recast (speak in a different way) and reify (make some specified ideas more prominent) an understanding of systems thinking.

The presentation was overprepared — we can’t predict how engaged students will be on the ideas, before their brains are full.  Of 55 slides, we stopped on slide 37.  For streaming, the video is accessible on Youtube. (with a 6-minute excerpt on the Luoyang Bay abalone farms from the documentary Watermark, by Edward Burtynsky, removed).

Viewers who prefer to watch video on a disconnected device can download a video file.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM
January 17
(1h18m)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing HD m4v]
(HD 2814kbps 1.7GB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing nHD m4v]
(nHD 210kkps 179MB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing HD webm]
(HD 470kbps 392MB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing nHD webm]
(nHD VP8 114kbps 184MB)

Readers interested in the full set of 55 slides are welcomed to view them online or download them.… Read more (in a new tab)

The Systems Changes Learning Circle has met at least every 3 weeks over the past year.  As part of an hour+ lecture to introduce systems thinking, students in the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University were immersed in questions where we’ve focused our attention, complemented by background into traditional foundational materials.  An audio recording has now been matched up with presentation slides, so that learners outside the classroom can partially share in the experience.

This lecture begins with the rising interest in “systems change”, that is related to “theory of change” from funders of social innovation programs.  From there, the lecture aims to recast (speak in a different way) and reify (make some specified ideas more prominent) an understanding of systems thinking.

The presentation was overprepared — we can’t predict how engaged students will be on the ideas, before their brains are full.  Of 55 slides, we stopped on slide 37.  For streaming, the video is accessible on Youtube. (with a 6-minute excerpt on the Luoyang Bay abalone farms from the documentary Watermark, by Edward Burtynsky, removed).

Viewers who prefer to watch video on a disconnected device can download a video file.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM
January 17
(1h18m)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing HD m4v]
(HD 2814kbps 1.7GB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing nHD m4v]
(nHD 210kkps 179MB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing HD webm]
(HD 470kbps 392MB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing nHD webm]
(nHD VP8 114kbps 184MB)

Readers interested in the full set of 55 slides are welcomed to view them online or download them.… Read more (in a new tab)

Acts of representation with systems thinking (OCADU 2017/03)

For the “Understanding Systems & Systemic Design” course in the program for the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University, the lecture slides were the same for both the full-time cohort on March 8 and part-time cohort on March 9, while the oral presentation varied.  The target, in about 90 minutes, was to cover at least 4 of 5 sections, from:

  • 1. Architecting ↔ designing
  • 2. Service systems ← production systems
  • 3. Affordances ↔ pattern language
  • 4. Ecological anthropology ← teleology
  • 5. Inquiring systems ↔ methods

The students were alerted that some of the arrows in the section headings were double-headed, and some were single-headed — with specific meanings.  For each day, the classroom audio was recorded.  That digital audio has now been synchronized with slides that had previously been posted on the Coevolving Commons.

This session was #8 of 15 lectures for the OCADU SFI students.  They had already done some basic reading on systems approaches.  Since they were working towards a Major Research Project (a lighter weight form of a thesis) for their Master of Design degree, my overall agenda for this lecture was to have them reflect on acts of representation.   Systems have already been represented to them in a variety of forms:  textually, orally and visually.  For their Major Research Projects, they would be creating detailed representations, as ways of having their audience appreciate the in-depth study of the world and issues selected for the term.… Read more (in a new tab)

For the “Understanding Systems & Systemic Design” course in the program for the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University, the lecture slides were the same for both the full-time cohort on March 8 and part-time cohort on March 9, while the oral presentation varied.  The target, in about 90 minutes, was to cover at least 4 of 5 sections, from:

  • 1. Architecting ↔ designing
  • 2. Service systems ← production systems
  • 3. Affordances ↔ pattern language
  • 4. Ecological anthropology ← teleology
  • 5. Inquiring systems ↔ methods

The students were alerted that some of the arrows in the section headings were double-headed, and some were single-headed — with specific meanings.  For each day, the classroom audio was recorded.  That digital audio has now been synchronized with slides that had previously been posted on the Coevolving Commons.

This session was #8 of 15 lectures for the OCADU SFI students.  They had already done some basic reading on systems approaches.  Since they were working towards a Major Research Project (a lighter weight form of a thesis) for their Master of Design degree, my overall agenda for this lecture was to have them reflect on acts of representation.   Systems have already been represented to them in a variety of forms:  textually, orally and visually.  For their Major Research Projects, they would be creating detailed representations, as ways of having their audience appreciate the in-depth study of the world and issues selected for the term.… Read more (in a new tab)

Pattern Manual for Service Systems Thinking

At the PUARL Conference 2016, a proposal was made on adapting pattern language for service systems thinking.  In 1967, Christopher Alexander published Pattern Manual at the founding of the Center for Environmental Structure, describing a pattern format for physical built environments.  While we can learn a lot from the nearly 50 years work originating at the CES, service systems have features beyond physicality that suggest reconsidering some of the foundations of pattern language.

An article for discussion was accepted into the proceedings for the PUARL conference.  The 20-minute presentation quickly covered the following topics:

  • 1. Pattern Manual 1967 + Service Systems
  • 2. Alexandrian example → services
  • 3. Methods clarified since 1973
  • 4. A new format:  amplifying, rephilosophizing, reinterpreting prior doxa
  • 5. Generating and legitimizing in communities

Slides have been added over the audio recording to produce a video presentation.

Audio [20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T.mp3]
(20MB, 20m19s)
[20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T_3db.mp3]
(volume boosted 3db, 20MB, 20m19s)
[20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T_6db.mp3]
(volume boosted 6db, 20MB, 20m19s)
Video HD (20m19s)
H.264 MP4 [1280×720 384Kbps m4v]
(70MB)
[1280×720 5000Kbps m4v]
(76MB)
WebM [1280×720 110Kbps webm]
(34MB)
[1280×720 826Kbps webm]
(153MB)

For people who prefer visuals at their own pace, the slides are posted on the Coevolving Commons.  The video is available on Youtube.

At the PUARL Conference 2016, a proposal was made on adapting pattern language for service systems thinking.  In 1967, Christopher Alexander published Pattern Manual at the founding of the Center for Environmental Structure, describing a pattern format for physical built environments.  While we can learn a lot from the nearly 50 years work originating at the CES, service systems have features beyond physicality that suggest reconsidering some of the foundations of pattern language.

An article for discussion was accepted into the proceedings for the PUARL conference.  The 20-minute presentation quickly covered the following topics:

  • 1. Pattern Manual 1967 + Service Systems
  • 2. Alexandrian example → services
  • 3. Methods clarified since 1973
  • 4. A new format:  amplifying, rephilosophizing, reinterpreting prior doxa
  • 5. Generating and legitimizing in communities

Slides have been added over the audio recording to produce a video presentation.

Audio [20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T.mp3]
(20MB, 20m19s)
[20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T_3db.mp3]
(volume boosted 3db, 20MB, 20m19s)
[20161029_PUARL_Ing_PatternManualS2T_6db.mp3]
(volume boosted 6db, 20MB, 20m19s)
Video HD (20m19s)
H.264 MP4 [1280×720 384Kbps m4v]
(70MB)
[1280×720 5000Kbps m4v]
(76MB)
WebM [1280×720 110Kbps webm]
(34MB)
[1280×720 826Kbps webm]
(153MB)

For people who prefer visuals at their own pace, the slides are posted on the Coevolving Commons.  The video is available on Youtube.

Some Future Paths for Design Professionals: DesignX and Systemic Design

Design professionals were attracted at the RSD5 (Relating Systems Thinking and Design) Symposium to a preconference workshop on October 13 at OCADU in Toronto, with the following abstract:

Since 2014, an international collaborative of design leaders has been exploring ways in which methods can be augmented, transitioning from the heritage legacy focus on products and services towards a broad range of complex sociotechnical systems and contemporary societal problems issues. At last year’s RSD4 Symposium, DesignX founder Don Norman presented a keynote talk on the frontiers of design practice and necessity for advanced design education for highly complex sociotechnical problems. He identified the qualities of these systems as relevant to DesignX problems, and called for systemics, transdisciplinarity and the need for high-quality observations (or evidence) in design problems.   Initial directions found were proposed in the first DesignX workshop in October 2015, which have been published in the new design journal She Ji.  In October 2016, another DesignX workshop will be held at Tongji University in Shanghai, overlapping with the timing of the RSD5 Symposium.

We propose to sustain the relationships between RSD and DesignX with this RSD5 half-day workshop, to explore the relationships between systemic design, existing educational programs and the DesignX agenda. We invite RSD participants engaged in both of these contexts to join in a collaborative discussion aimed at further developing the design and education agendas in these discourse communities. We aim to capture experiences and insights from design leaders, educators and practitioners in Toronto, as input, validation and/or suggestions for further development of the DesignX direction.

Read more (in a new tab)

Design professionals were attracted at the RSD5 (Relating Systems Thinking and Design) Symposium to a preconference workshop on October 13 at OCADU in Toronto, with the following abstract:

Since 2014, an international collaborative of design leaders has been exploring ways in which methods can be augmented, transitioning from the heritage legacy focus on products and services towards a broad range of complex sociotechnical systems and contemporary societal problems issues. At last year’s RSD4 Symposium, DesignX founder Don Norman presented a keynote talk on the frontiers of design practice and necessity for advanced design education for highly complex sociotechnical problems. He identified the qualities of these systems as relevant to DesignX problems, and called for systemics, transdisciplinarity and the need for high-quality observations (or evidence) in design problems.   Initial directions found were proposed in the first DesignX workshop in October 2015, which have been published in the new design journal She Ji.  In October 2016, another DesignX workshop will be held at Tongji University in Shanghai, overlapping with the timing of the RSD5 Symposium.

We propose to sustain the relationships between RSD and DesignX with this RSD5 half-day workshop, to explore the relationships between systemic design, existing educational programs and the DesignX agenda. We invite RSD participants engaged in both of these contexts to join in a collaborative discussion aimed at further developing the design and education agendas in these discourse communities. We aim to capture experiences and insights from design leaders, educators and practitioners in Toronto, as input, validation and/or suggestions for further development of the DesignX direction.

Read more (in a new tab)

Eight infographics from “Systems Thinking 2” (2016)

Concluding 3 intensive weeks of content immersion, eight student groups created infographics of the ideas that resonated with them from the “Systems Thinking 2” class in the Creative Sustainability program at Aalto University.  Each group had been given 3 weeks in advance to prepare content to lead a learning discussion, staking a position on a list of references.  As students participated in the intensive sessions, the broader contexts reshaped those positions into a broader appreciation of the breadth of systems thinking. The initial positions and concluding syntheses were:

  • 1. Appreciative systems, futures → Into the Future with Systems Thinking
  • 2. Boundary, inquiry, perspectives → Systems thinking — synthesis
  • 3. Learning categories, postnormal science, ignorance → Systems Thinking from learning and knowledge making perspective
  • 4. Dialogue, engagement, intervention → Systems thinking from a dialogue perspective
  • 5. Ecosystems, collapse, resilience → What is the purpose of understanding the differentiation between complexity and complicatedness in systems thinking
  • 6. Coevolution, turbulence, anticipatory systems → Anticipatory systems, turbulence and coevolution
  • 7. Living systems, viable systems, metabolism → How to make STEW (Systems Thinking Endless Wisdom)
  • 8. Social-ecological systems, regime shifts → Systems? No problem!

The ending infographics represent a synthesis of the content from the course, each group having traced a different path. To rebalance team sizes, a few individuals migrated to a different group.  Some anchored more on the content they had led, while others chose to strengthen linkages to other ideas.

Into the Future with Systems Thinking

1. Appreciative systems, futures → Into the Future with Systems Thinking

Group 1 read through a cluster of references on appreciative systems and futures and a map of the basic ideas to produce a presentation slide set.

Read more (in a new tab)

Concluding 3 intensive weeks of content immersion, eight student groups created infographics of the ideas that resonated with them from the “Systems Thinking 2” class in the Creative Sustainability program at Aalto University.  Each group had been given 3 weeks in advance to prepare content to lead a learning discussion, staking a position on a list of references.  As students participated in the intensive sessions, the broader contexts reshaped those positions into a broader appreciation of the breadth of systems thinking. The initial positions and concluding syntheses were:

  • 1. Appreciative systems, futures → Into the Future with Systems Thinking
  • 2. Boundary, inquiry, perspectives → Systems thinking — synthesis
  • 3. Learning categories, postnormal science, ignorance → Systems Thinking from learning and knowledge making perspective
  • 4. Dialogue, engagement, intervention → Systems thinking from a dialogue perspective
  • 5. Ecosystems, collapse, resilience → What is the purpose of understanding the differentiation between complexity and complicatedness in systems thinking
  • 6. Coevolution, turbulence, anticipatory systems → Anticipatory systems, turbulence and coevolution
  • 7. Living systems, viable systems, metabolism → How to make STEW (Systems Thinking Endless Wisdom)
  • 8. Social-ecological systems, regime shifts → Systems? No problem!

The ending infographics represent a synthesis of the content from the course, each group having traced a different path. To rebalance team sizes, a few individuals migrated to a different group.  Some anchored more on the content they had led, while others chose to strengthen linkages to other ideas.

Into the Future with Systems Thinking

1. Appreciative systems, futures → Into the Future with Systems Thinking

Group 1 read through a cluster of references on appreciative systems and futures and a map of the basic ideas to produce a presentation slide set.

Read more (in a new tab)

Systems Thinking 2 course, Aalto University, February 2016

As part of the Master’s Program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, I’ll be in Finland for 3 weeks in February, as an instructor.  I’m doing this as a favour for Katri Pulkkinen, who has been teaching the course since 2010, and felt that she needed some extra time to work on her Ph.D. dissertation.

Systems Thinking 2 follows in a series of compulsory courses, each with specified learning outcomes:

  • Creative Teamwork: “The course focuses on working methods co-operation practices within the studies and the professional field of sustainability”.
  • Creating the Mindset of Sustainable Societies: “To create the common ground of sustainability studies and to learn to deal with different scopes of sustainability concept in complex environments. Understanding mindsets and sustainable societies: what this means in political, governmental, business, organizational, individual and groups/community levels”.
  • Systems Thinking 1: “Learning the basics of the systems thinking approach in the context of sustainability. The students who have participated actively in the intensive course will be able to use the basic vocabulary and concepts of the systems thinking approach. The students also develop their skills in working and presenting ideas in multi-disciplinary teams”.
  • Systems Thinking 2: “Learning how systems thinking can be applied in questions of sustainability in different fields. During this intensive course, the students familiarize themselves with different ways of using the systems approach to tackle problematic situations. The aim is to understand both the versatility of the systems approach and the importance of choosing the right systems tools for each case.
Read more (in a new tab)

As part of the Master’s Program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, I’ll be in Finland for 3 weeks in February, as an instructor.  I’m doing this as a favour for Katri Pulkkinen, who has been teaching the course since 2010, and felt that she needed some extra time to work on her Ph.D. dissertation.

Systems Thinking 2 follows in a series of compulsory courses, each with specified learning outcomes:

  • Creative Teamwork: “The course focuses on working methods co-operation practices within the studies and the professional field of sustainability”.
  • Creating the Mindset of Sustainable Societies: “To create the common ground of sustainability studies and to learn to deal with different scopes of sustainability concept in complex environments. Understanding mindsets and sustainable societies: what this means in political, governmental, business, organizational, individual and groups/community levels”.
  • Systems Thinking 1: “Learning the basics of the systems thinking approach in the context of sustainability. The students who have participated actively in the intensive course will be able to use the basic vocabulary and concepts of the systems thinking approach. The students also develop their skills in working and presenting ideas in multi-disciplinary teams”.
  • Systems Thinking 2: “Learning how systems thinking can be applied in questions of sustainability in different fields. During this intensive course, the students familiarize themselves with different ways of using the systems approach to tackle problematic situations. The aim is to understand both the versatility of the systems approach and the importance of choosing the right systems tools for each case.
Read more (in a new tab)
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    • Wholism, reductionism (Francois, 2004)
      Proponents of #SystemsThinking often espouse holism to counter over-emphasis on reductionism. Reading some definitions from an encyclopedia positions one in the context of the other (François 2004).
    • It matters (word use)
      Saying “it doesn’t matter” or “it matters” is a common expression in everyday English. For scholarly work, I want to “keep using that word“, while ensuring it means what I want it to mean. The Oxford English Dictionary (third edition, March 2001) has three entries for “matter”. The first two entries for a noun. The […]
    • Systemic Change, Systematic Change, Systems Change (Reynolds, 2011)
      It's been challenging to find sources that specifically define two-word phrases -- i.e. "systemic change", "systematic change", "systems change" -- as opposed to loosely inferring reductively from one-word definitions in recombination. MartinReynolds @OpenUniversity clarifies uses of the phrases, with a critical eye into motives for choosing a specific label, as well as associated risks and […]
    • Environmental c.f. ecological (Francois, 2004; Allen, Giampietro Little 2003)
      The term "environmental" can be mixed up with "ecological", when the meanings are different. We can look at the encyclopedia definitions (François 2004), and then compare the two in terms of applied science (i.e. engineering with (#TimothyFHAllen @MarioGiampietro and #AmandaMLittle, 2003).
    • Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language: Analysing, Mapping and Classifying the Critical Response | Dawes and Ostwald | 2017
      While many outside of the field of architecture like the #ChristopherAlexander #PatternLanguage approach, it's not so well accepted by his peers. A summary of criticisms by #MichaelJDawes and #MichaelJOstwald @UNSWBuiltEnv is helpful in appreciating when the use of pattern language might be appropriate or not appropriate.
    • Field (system definitions, 2004, plus social)
      Systems thinking should include not only thinking about the system, but also its environment. Using the term "field" as the system of interest plus its influences leaves a lot of the world uncovered. From the multiple definitions in the International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics , there is variety of ways of understanding "field".
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