Emerging Contexts of Systemic Design – ISSS 2014

Peter Jones Social Systems Design, Systemic Design

The 2014 ISSS conference held at George Washington U was organized and convened by current president Gerald Midgely, ( U of Hull) who this year hands off the lead to Open University’s Ray Ison, a leading researcher in water ecosystems. Ray will lead next year’s ISSS conference in Berlin and will be looking for inspiring new ideas for this nearly 60-year organization.

Gary Metcalf provides an excellent recap of the ISSS plenary sessions at the Saybrook University blog. Proceedings are not yet published for the current conference, but the prior years are available online.

The theme for this year was appropriately titled “Leading Across Boundaries,” a clear call to engage ideas across the disciplines to which systems theory and thinking contribute.  I opened this year’s new track in Systemic Design at ISSS 2014 with a context presentation of systemic design in the context of systems practice and education (the additional research paper PPT is posted below this piece).  Our session was highlighted by talks from Ray Ison (Systems and Design: Mutually influencing disciplines and practices?) and Tony Hodgson, who presented his latest Three Horizons work in the context of foresight and systemic design.

Our intent was to share the developing relationships of design thinking to systems research and practice and inspire people in the systems community to contribute to this common ground.  Leading researchers in service and social design have formed a durable discourse toward systems-oriented design as a transdisciplinary design discipline, so we hoped to discover shared cause with the systems disciplines.

Graduate design programs have begun seriously integrating systems thinking courses and pedagogies into leading degree programs. Between the continents, AHO’s Systems-Oriented Design and OCAD University’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation have co-evolved curricula, symposia and workshops over recent years toward the development of a shared space of systemic design research for complex services and social and human-centered systems. This collaboration has resulted in an annual symposium, RSD (moving to Canada for 2015 and 2016), and shared research projects.