Meet our New ISSS Members - Takafumi Nakamura, Annette Hay, Sarah Helps.
Upcoming Edition of SRBS.
Recent Members' Publications.
News from the Book Club.
Systems Science Events in April.
To contribute to any of these, please see the details at the end of this newsletter.
Message from the President
Organizing an ISSS conference for the first time in Africa can be a daunting experience, especially after two online conferences in 2020 and 2021. But it is with great pleasure that I can announce that we have more than 100 participants registered for the conference. What a celebration! About 35 are from Africa and the rest from all over the world!
True to the nature of the community, we have participants from all walks of life and a great variety of professions. Our participants represent different ontological views ranging from natural scientists, social scientists, critical social theorists and even critical realists. In the past months we often discussed the relationships between natural and social systems during our mini-symposia, and we identified the specific nature of social systems as an important aspect in our quest for synergy. We have a unique opportunity to discuss this in an accommodative environment in June. If you still want to contribute, but have not yet registered, please contact me urgently since, we might be able to secure additional accommodation (roelie...@nwu.ac.za).
Our discussions on synergy planned for April are moving to May this year. This is due to several interesting speakers I invited to provide talks in April (see in the newsletter below). Please let me know if you are interested in taking part in offline groups working on synergy.
Thank you to everyone working very hard to make this conference a reality, as well as to the newsletter team. As my activities as president are winding down, I appreciate each member who contributes to the organisation of the society.
International Society for the Systems Sciences, 67th Annual Conference.
Aspects to pay attention for people who are registered:
If you have not bought flight tickets, please do so urgently. Prices goes up and availability is limited. If you are flying to Skukusa or a nearby airport. Please email a copy of your air ticket to confe...@isss.org. Your transfer to the venue is included in your registration fee and we need to plan our transport options.
Remember this is a Malaria Area, please contact your local health provider. Typically, it involves taking one table six weeks prior to departure. Please check well in advance.
We will add an a link to the Journal systems for the submission of final abstracts and papers for review on the web site.
Anecdotally, there is a strong sentiment shared in the Systems Science community that our Educational offerings are not as accessible, rigorous, discoverable, or integrated as we would like them to be.
To this end, the goal of this Census is to increase the visibility of various Systems Education programs around the world. Responses to the survey are viewable at the interactive interface here, and when you add your program in, the information will be available at the public site pending confirmation (note: this is a work in progress as of March 2023, and being sent out to ISSS members for initial populating).
Listing of your Systems Educational Program (whether it is in an academic institution, or other organization) will increase its visibility with those who are interested in learning, and therefore contribute to a vibrant and accessible Systems community.
On April 20th 2023 at 18 UTC at this Zoom link, the Knowledge Engineering project at ISSS will host an hour-long “positive entanglement” around the topic of Systems Science and Large Language Models, with attention to how these models can be applied to the ISSS Archives in service of accessibility, rigor, and applicability.
Topic: Unity of Science: Contributions from Bogdanov
Abstract: In this talk I will present the outline of the argument I develop in my ongoing research at the University of Amsterdam.
The subject of the research is a ‘lost paradigm’ that provided a creative answer to the unresolved question of the unity (or disunity) of science. This forgotten work is Alexander Bogdanov’s life work culminated in tektology, outlined in his 1913-29 book Tektology: Universal Science of Organisation.
Tektology is increasingly accepted today as the first-ever systematic work which presented systems/complexity science. Therefore, the unit of analysis of the research is Bogdanov’s main writings. I hypothesise that, especially with tektology, which included a clear and accessible conceptual and methodological framework and the first principle that later systems and complexity approaches lacked, Bogdanov might have given a correct answer to the unity/disunity question.
The main objective of the research is to highlight the importance and relevance of Bogdanov’s work by rereading it against the unity/disunity of science debate. In doing so, I will be re-connecting two important unity/disunity of science debates that evolved somewhat independently in the history and philosophy of science (HPS) and systems/complexity fields in the absence of Bogdanov’s work. To re-connect these debates around the answer Bogdanov gave, I go back to the late modern writings on science and propose a reconstruction of the history of both fields as two candidate meta-or unifying sciences, which tried to solve the unity/disunity of science riddle yet failed. I also compare and 4 PMast the main arguments and aspects of these attempts with that of Bogdanov. My final objective is to intervene in the contemporary debates on the unity of science.
Bio: I am an academic researcher at the University of Amsterdam. In the past, I worked as a political advisor and consultant for the Turkish parliament and the trade union confederation DISK. I gained international experience in policy networks and union solidarity projects as a project advisor and consultant. I participated in transnational social justice and protest movements Water Justice, 15M, and Occupy Wall Street as an activist. I hold a master's degree in international relations and transnational governance and I am currently working on my research on Alexander Bogdanov's work and ideas, in the context of the question of unity/disunity of science and of systems/complexity paradigms, at the Institute of Logic, Language and Computation.
Topic: Peaceful Futures: A Journey to Peace-Based Civilization
Abstract: Peaceful Futures is an action research aimed to discover ways of creating peace based civilization on our planet in the 21st century. Over the last decade many prominent thought leaders pointed out to the fact that the weaponry is becoming increasingly lethal while the global socio-economic system becomes increasingly fragile, and any major war could spiral into an assured destruction of civilization and humankind. In 2022, the world once again recognized the fact that world peace should not be taken for granted, and that the existential risk of a global thermonuclear conflict could be very real. If this condition remains, the possibility of a sustainable human civilization should be ruled out - and unfolding climate and biodiversity crises further aggravate the risk. In the words of Buckminster Fuller, “either war is obsolete, or humans are”. Through a series of foresight sessions and Structured Democratic Dialogues, participants from over 30 countries of Global North and South explored the range of political, economic, technological, educational, and socio-cultural strategies that can create peace for all. As a result of this work, a conceptualization of "levels of peace" was produced, and a road map of critical paths towards the peaceful futures was created. The workshop will present the key conclusion of the research and will invite participants to contribute their own ideas regarding the possibility of peaceful futures.
Bio: Pavel Luksha is a system thinker, change catalyst, and facilitator working with systemic innovations in education, business, social entrepreneurship, culture, and urban development. Pavel is the founder & director of Global Education Futures think-do tank, the founder of School of Evolutionary Leadership, and the co-founder of several international social movements, including The Weaving Lab, Learning Planet, Future of Capital, and Living Cities Earth. He also cofounded the Voice of Youth initiative and TeenStart youth entrepreneurship program that empowered thousands of young people. He is the Fellow of World Academy of Art & Science, and the Board director of the Laszlo Institute for the New Paradigm Research, Campus CoEvolve, FutureHow, and EcoClass. Pavel is the co-author of the Rapid Foresight methodology used by thousands of futurists and practitioners in over 20 countries of the world, and the principal author of a number of impactful publications on the future of education, skills, and jobs. Pavel is also a visiting professor at SKOLKOVO School of Management (Moscow), ITBA (Buenos Aires), ESCP (Berlin), and Emergence (Oslo).
He is the member of ISSS community since 2003.
12 April Saturday
Speaker: Sue Gabriele
Title: Systemocracy: Transcending Bureaucracy via the 30/30 RoundTable
Abstract. Our current model worldwide for large organizations is bureaucracy, a wonderful invention in its time to correct flaws of patriarchy. Patriarchal leaders control the personal and work lives of their people; Bureaucracy applies only to employees’ work lives. Bureaucracy, like patriarchy, is illustrated in this paper by an organization chart of faces with arrows pointing down to represent the boss’ control over employees—(i. e., top-down information flows).
However, a main flaw in bureaucracy is its (unintended) treatment of employees as empty vessels to fill, leaving people at the bottom of the organization chart discontent and underperforming. Ever-increasing remedies have been offered, but they are typically asystemic, that is: ill-conceived and ill-designed. Such remedies increase employees’ workload wastefully, leaving them more discouraged and overworked. The 30/30 RoundTable provides satisfying new information flows without increasing employee workloads.
In just 30 minutes monthly, everyone in the room (system) about 30 ± n people, has an equal turn to share their thoughts. The methods used to develop this topic include: non-specialist language to bypass the silo effect; simple and clear graphics, explanations, definitions, illustrations, metaphors and charts of key concepts-- especially, bureaucracy, systemocracy, and 30/30 RoundTables; and links to experts in this and other relevant fields. The proposed result is a new structure with three established continuing information flows. The existing top-down flows (bureaucratic) are supplemented both with horizontal information flows, where employees (and students) hear each other’s thoughts, and with bottom-up flows, where managers hear what their supervised are thinking. Thus, power, authority and information are gradually relocated from the top (CEO’s bureau) to each organization level and each department (system, sub-system, suprasystem) at each company’s own rate and time-frame. Thus, bureaucracy evolves into systemocracy at each organization’s own pace.
19 April Wednesday
Speaker: Daniel Friedman
Topic: The Knowledge Engineering project at ISSS
Abstract: Material recommendation is a matter of matching the level of insights of the audience with the suitability of the chosen material. It follows then, that different materials will be more suitable for different people. The International Systems Science Society (ISSS) provides an opportunity to navigate the spectrum of options for different participant levels. ISSS offers both education streams and research streams, so this allows for the development of specific resources for the promotion of the different use cases. Furthermore, it is important to be able to recognize false positives and false negatives when navigating the training material and other resources. False positives mean that materials are not suitable for the intended target audience whereas false negatives indicate mismatches with the capabilities of the person dealing with the material. This can lead to individuals spending valuable time on topics outside their expertise.
Organizational learning curves are also a key part of the development of the ISSS program. As people progress through the materials, the community can gain valuable insight into the best ways to support initiatives within the systems thinking realm. Building the capabilities and maturities of members is paramount in this development process.
In conclusion, material recommendations depend fully on matching the knowledge of the audience with the suitability of the chosen material. It is important to consider false positives and false negatives in the recommendation process and is essential to build organizational learning curves as the ISSS program develops. This will ensure that everyone is able to get the most out of their experience with the ISSS program.
26 April Wednesday
Speaker: Gianni Di Marco
Topic: Q matrix: A New Framework for Systems Change
Abstract: This presentation will take the audience on a journey with a traditional change manager who, after turning to systems science to solve the mystery of systemic resistance to change in corporate organizations, found that he still did not have all the answers he was looking for.
This journey then became an exploration at the edge of systems research, including Complex Adaptive and Evolvable Systems, Anticipatory Systems, Dissipative Systems, and many other amazing systems concepts that are necessary to understanding the patterns of organizational behavior when they are stressed by managers to undergo deep changes.
From this journey, the newcomer to systems science brought back a backpack full of information, concepts, models, and ideas that he will try to purposefully sort out and combine to produce the systems change theory he was looking for. The ultimate goal is to turn this theory into a model that could facilitate change management in the most challenging situations of deep systemic transformation, toward sustainable and purposeful ideals… The type of transformation our society need to face the 21st century's Grand Challenges.
The draft of a new framework will be presented, which was named Q matrix. It is composed of five archetypes of stable system states and relates the system state to its transformative potential, including resistance to change characteristics and change triggers.
The presentation will conclude on open fields of exploration and potential development based on the new framework, since the transformative pattern of the Q matrix apparently embrace holistic dynamics that seems to apply to any living system.
Bio: Gianni Di Marco is a Systems Change Facilitator, Independent Consultant, Coach, and Trainer from Switzerland.
In 2021, Gianni completed a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Change Management and Leadership from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Since then, he has been engaged in R&D on systemic resistance to change in human social systems and systems change management. He holds certifications as a Trainer in Systems Thinking, Mapping, and Leadership from Cabrera Research Lab and as a Coach in Vertical Leadership Development from Global Leadership Associates.
Gianni holds a PhD in Geology, which he completed in 1994. He worked in the Oil and Gas industry for a few years before moving from interpreting geosystems to managing human systems. Gianni spent 25 years in sales and marketing, market development, and business development. He has a successful track record in problem-solving, innovation, and driving positive change in the organizations he worked for, and he has always been a changemaker. Gianni has managed projects in various fields, from pharmaceuticals to tourism to innovation technologies. He was the Founder and CEO of his own startup in the 2000s, in the field of B2B and B2C services for outdoor activities. His last assignment was in an organization providing management and development services to corporations.
Gianni is a member of ISSS since 2021.
Join the Conversation in May
Towards Synergy in Systems Practice
In last month’s newsletter we announced that we are starting a journey to talk about synergies in our systems practice in order to find common ground. We also indicated that a shared application of systems practice methodologies will be useful. The nature, organisation, and purpose of the ISSS was identified as a topic for demonstrating these ideas.
As an example, our Vice President for System Practice, Gary Smith, gave a talk on 24th March. The talk was divided into three parts describing Gary’s journey towards a general understanding of systems practice. After a discussion on chronic inflammation in complex human diseases and an application of systems thinking in patterns found in the defense and security mechanisms of living systems, the third part applied his systems ideas to the operation of the ISSS, exploring insights from the ISSS Futures Report and highlighting progress made.
In relating his work to that of other speakers, Gary highlighted the importance of a shared vision and mission, drawing on the principle of tensegrity in organizations presented by Shann Turnbull. He emphasized the diverse works and projects of our members, which have been instrumental in moving us towards an integration of systems science. Gary also underscored the key role of System Integration Groups and their contribution to research and development. Finally, he stressed the need to deepen our relationships and engagements with the wider system community.
As we move forward, we will continue to reflect on how system science and thinking can be applied to the ISSS itself, expanding on and looking beyond the insights shared by Gary during his talk. Throughout this last year, our members and guests have shared many valuable methods and practices in these mini-symposiums. We will continue to work towards a unifying framework for system science to take full advantage of the diversity of our collective knowledge, realizing the synergies in theory and practice.
We thus invite you all to join the conversation, to add your insights, knowledge and perspectives as the greater whole emerges. Please contact me at Roelie...@nwu.ac.za if you are interested in helping to organise these sessions.
Welcome to our New ISSS Members
We sent an email to all members who joined in 2022 and the following new members participated in a fun question answer survey. We welcome you to the society. All new members who received the invite to participate are welcome to submit their detail. We will feature every month a few new members. Members select questions from a long list to tell us about themselves. To join the ISSS simply go to ISSS.org/Register/
How did your interest in systems develop?
I studied theoretical physics at Kyoto University and was fascinated by the way quantum mechanics helped me understand the world. Then I came to realize that the number of societal problems is limited by hard science and got to know SSM. From there, my interest in systems science grew.
Are you interested in a specific field of systems thinking - which one?
I am particularly interested in the area of SSM and further TSI. I am also interested in the interrelationships between these theories and practices.
In which industry do you work and in which role?
I retired from the IT company Fujitsu two years ago and am a specially appointed professor at Daito Bunka University in Tokyo, where I teach
students about management engineering, IT project management, and risk management from a systems perspective.
Tell us about any pastimes or hobbies you have and how you got into them?
My hobby is kendo. I am currently a 4th dan and kendo is a Japanese martial art. I started when I was in junior high school, then took a long hiatus, but resumed 10 years ago as a way to reflect on my old self. Kendo is a samurai art in which lives are exchanged, but the emphasis is on not severing ties with the opponent. It also has something in common with systems in terms of maintaining and respecting relationships with others.
What’s your favourite book to read?
I am fascinated by the works of Oe Kenzaburo, Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad, and Lu Xun.
What’s your favourite movie?
Serpico is played by Al Pacino. It considers the difference between doing the right thing and behaving correctly within the norm.
How did your interest in systems develop? My interest was aroused during a previous SoTL project where we also used systems thinking as teaching and learning strategy. Thereafter, I used in many other educational modules (BEd programme) to help students understand content better (e.g. ecosystems, water cycle, carbon cycle).
Are you interested in a specific field of systems thinking - which one? Yes, in Environmental
Education we focus on UNESCO’s dimensions or pillars of the environment - the political, social, bio-physical and economic dimensions. And how they interact with each other.
In which industry do you work and in which role? In Education at university level, more specific Geography and EE as lecturer.
What are three words that best describe you? Passionate about my work; hardworking; honesty
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? In South Africa, Eastern Free State with the sandstone mountains.
What is your proudest accomplishment? The birth of my two lovely children (Stephan and Jone).
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would you do? To be in nature – near mountains and water.
How did your interest in systems develop?
After qualifying as a clinical psychologist in 1995, I started working in an NHS clinic for children and families with chronic and acute health difficulties and learnt about systemic practice in the form of structural family therapy. From there I learned about first and second-order cybernetics, social constructivism and social constructionism and trained as a systemic psychotherapist, a form of psychotherapy where the focus of intervention and change is on the spaces between people (whether in families or organisations) rather than on internal process.
Are you interested in a specific field of systems thinking - which one?
That's a hard question for me to answer. In very basic terms, I find joining things up, of
thinking about how one thing affects another affects another and so on really valuable in all walks of life.
I also think that considering how things work together (whether those 'things' are staff in teams, people in families, or parts of the brain) can feel potentially overwhelming to people who are used to working in narrow but deep ways. Overall, I'm interested in how we can move the lens in and out in a way that leads to growth, development and change. I believe that once people start to think systemically, that it's really hard to stop.
In which industry do you work and in which role?
I work in the National Health Service in the UK and in academia, where I hold clinical, leadership and academic roles. I'm newly in role as the editor on chief of the Journal of Family Therapy.
What’s your favourite book to read?
The book I keep going back to at the moment is Say Yes to the Mess by Frank Barrett. Through his understanding of how jazz musicians co-ordinate together, he describes a model of (systemic) organisational leadership. I find this such a powerful book that reminds me of the importance of having all members of an organisation play to their strengths and step-forward to shine, while the conductor / leader provides a containing but flexible and permeable structure and an overall strategic direction.
Upcoming Edition of SRBS
Special Issue of Behavioral Science (40.2, March/April 2023): Resurrecting Bogdanov on the 150th anniversary of his birth
This special issue of Systems Research and Behavioral Science (SRBS) has been guest-edited by Örsan Şenalp, Gerald Midgley, Viatcheslav Maracha and Svetlana Shchepetova. Alexander Bogdanov (1873-1928) was a physician, philosopher, science fiction writer, and Bolshevik revolutionary. The special issue will include papers drawn from the Centre for Systems Studies’ online conference on the life and work of Bogdanov, and transcripts of the 2021 Annual Mike Jackson Lecture by Carlo Rovelli and the discussion that followed between Mike Jackson and Carlo Rovelli. In addition, there are two papers by Bogdanov that, it is believed, are appearing in English for the first time.
The principle of relativity from the organisational point of view by A. Bogdanov (translation)
Objective understanding of the principle of relativity (Methodological theses) by A. Bogdanov (translation)
Relational interpretation of quantum mechanics and Alexander Bogdanov's worldview by C. Rovelli
Quantum mechanics and Alexander Bogdanov's worldview: A conversation between C. Rovelli and M. C. Jackson
Alexander Bogdanov and the question of unity: An emerging research agenda by Ö. Şenalp and G. Midgley
Rebooting the systems approach by applying the thinking of Bogdanov and the pragmatists by M. C. Jackson
Alexander Bogdanov, Stafford Beer and intimations of a post-capitalist future by M. C. Jackson
Alexander Bogdanov's tektology, anticipating the evolution of social systems control by V. Lepskiy and E. Malakhova
The methodology of A. Bogdanov's tektology in the context of modern systems economic theory by G. B. Kleiner
A reading of Alexander Bogdanov in times of crisis by J. F. Rendon-Sanchez
The ISSS Book Club is starting a new book in April, Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity: A Guided Tour. Here are the reading assignments:
April 20: Chapters 1-5
May 18: Chapters 6-10
June: No meeting! See you at the ISSS Conference!
July 20: Chapters 11-14
August 17: Chapters 15-19
Please join us for the discussion! If you would like to be included on the book club email list, contact Marty Jacobs at marty.ja...@gmail.com. Remember, this is a members only benefit, so please consider joining ISSS.
Systems Science Events inApril
GSB-100: George Spencer-Brown Centennial Celebration
I would like to draw members’ attention to an article in The Conversation. The article describes some very significant work by the Italian theoretical physicist, Giorgio Parisi. In 2021, Professor Parisi shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with two others for their “groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems”. His work “…has allowed us to derive unprecedented conclusions about such systems that, on the surface, look random, unpredictable and impossible to model theoretically.”
In essence, complex systems comprise a collection of diverse components interacting in different and unpredictable ways under different external conditions. Pairs of components can experience conflicting forces that cause them to become “frustrated”, i.e., uncertain which option to settle upon. Parisi “…identified that complex systems are able to remember their trajectories over time, and can get stuck in sub-optimal states for a long time.” Much of Prof. Parisi’s work is associated with glass, which, has an amorphous rather than a crystalline structure. Unlike crystals whose structure is relatively simple and predictable, the structure of glass is not.
Some of you may be aware that I am currently developing social systems theory. In the last few weeks, I have been applying the concept of “frustration” in this area, and it does appear to be a very productive way forward. For example, we often encounter values in one social environment that contradict those in another and must find ways of dealing with this. If we all behaved according to the same set of values then society would be reasonably predictable. However, because we must deal with “frustrations” (no pun intended) the result is a very complex society indeed.
Many of Prof. Parisi’s papers can also be downloaded free of charge from Academia.
I hope that you find this information interesting and productive.
With best wishes,
I saw the excellent Dave Snowden speaking at the Annual Mike Jackson lecture at Hull University yesterday evening. Excellent in every way – Dave’s presentation and his conversation with Mike. All except for the absence of audience questions and discussion, that is, which meant I came away frustrated with my ‘bated list of questions and observation