Learning Across Boundaries – The ISSS-2014 Conference in Washington, D.C.

ISSS%20symbol - Learning Across Boundaries - The ISSS-2014 Conference in Washington, D.C.

The 58th meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences was held George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.  Gerald Midgley  president for this year, and his conference team, are to be commended for creating a great week of learning. 

The theme of the conference was “Learning Across Boundaries: Exploring the variety of systemic theory and practice.”  That theme was reflected in both the keynote presentations and the individual papers and workshops.  More importantly (for me), were the many discussions about linkages between theory and practice which may be developing beyond the conference. 

Some of the highlights from the keynote sessions included the following presenters.  For a few, there are links to the actual presentations.  For others, the presentations will be available later, but links to the topics are provided. 

Derek Cabrera is working towards universal principles in systems thinking.

Louis Klein discussed his systemic approach to consulting in Germany, through his organization, the Systemic Excellence Group.  Louis is also the Vice President for Conferences and Membership for the 2015 ISSS conference, to be held the first week of August in Berlin. 

George Richardson explained many of the essential aspects of systems dynamics modeling, and how those are interpreted into practice. 

James Thomas, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at UNC – Chapel Hill, discussed how systems thinking affects his work in conducting evaluations for USAID.

Janet Singer provided a summary of the ongoing collaboration between systems engineers and systems scientists. This work continues across the meetings of the ISSS, INCOSE (the International Council on Systems Engineering), and the conversations of the IFSR (the International Federation for Systems Research.) 

Gene Bellinger is the host of the Linked In group, Systems Thinking World, which now has over 18,000 registered members.  His presentation provided a chronology of the years and phases of his work, as well as the many new projects which continue to develop rapidly.  Gene’s presentation, via Skype, can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX6RhwdJMp4 .  

A panel session, including Mary Edson, Shankar Sankaran, Louis Klein, Debora Hammond, John Kineman, Pam Buckle, Gary Metcalf, and Will Vary (in absentia) discussed ongoing work in the exploration of systems research.  The ideas began as part of the ISSS 2013 meeting in Vietnam, continued through a systems research team at the IFSR conversation in Linz, Austria, in 2014, and provided the foundation for work in the Action Research SIG at this ISSS conference.  Plans are now being made to produce a book about systems research. 

Peter Stratton was invited to talk about the connections between family therapy and systems and cybernetic principles.  Peter is now extending his work in the arena of evaluation.

Gerald Midgley, Ray Ison, and Michael Lissack led a discussion about cybernetics, and the connections with the systems sciences.  The 50th annual conference of the American Society for Cybernetics follows in the same venue in D.C., where Michael will be the incoming ASC President.

Yiannis Louris  described his use of Structured Dialogic Design to the conflicts between Israel and Palestine, and to those between the Turkish and Greek sides in Cyprus.  Some of Yiannis’ work can be seen through: http://www.futureworldscenter.org/

And finally, Ray Ison incoming President of the ISSS, gave an overview of his work in sustainability.  His presentation included an invitation to the ISSS conference at Humboldt University in Berlin, where the theme will be “Governing the Anthropocene: The greatest challenge for systems thinking in practice?”  This promises to be an equally interesting event, with many additional learning opportunities planned around the conference.

Read other posts by Gary Metcalf

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