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Sonoma 2006 > Sonoma 2006 Planning

ISSS Design Meeting - 26 October 2005


Basic Agenda

10 - 11: What We Know (or, “are coming towards knowing”) - Identifying current conditions. Mapping out the pieces that are in place. Understanding what is “in” and what is “out.”

  • Why are we here?
  • Today�s outcomes

11 - 12: Reconnect w/ Vision: Jump out to future state and describe what's there. Trace steps back to current state.

  • What we know� or are coming to know
  • Re-Visioning the �There�

12 - 12:30: Node-to-Node (or noodle-to-noodle, as the case may be): Lunch conversations around (small) round tables. What matters?

  • Small group visioning work

12:30 - 2:00: Design Next Iteration of 2006 “Conference” - building the map, with annotations.

  • Mapping the next iterations

2:00 - 4:00: Next Steps: Bringing There to Here Some will be exiting at this point, so want to have iteration complete at this point, makes for good stepping out point. From here, group remaining focus on next steps, leaving in action, etc.

  • From �There� to �Here�

Stage Setting

  • The Vision
    • Evolving ISSS
      • Connecting scholars, practitioners and community members for relevant real world work
    • Coming together to learn, work, and play
    • What do we bring from the past?
    • What is the future we want to create?
  • Lenses and Design Criteria
    • Systems thinking
      • systems living
      • systems being and systems becoming
    • Unity in Diversity
      • �red thread� theme
      • Leit Motif
    • Different ways of knowing and learning


Self Introductions

Todd: Bring design as a conscious process for who people/groups want to be and design for that. I would like to have another iteration, another schematic, of not only the what of the 50th Reunion but the flow of it � the energy flows and the multiple layers of how it will feel and flow

John: Interest in organizational behavior. The cognitive aspects of wellness. How do you make successful change? What are the success facts for making it happen? How do you implement something that is well designed so that it has staying power and fulfills its potential? Most recently, I�m interested in sustainability as it relates to these issues of the cognitive aspects of wellness and questions of the implementation of organizational design change. I could also be a resource in terms of Open Space and/or World Caf� facilitation.

Alexander: He studied with Russ Ackoff at Wharton after he left Case. He has been involved in ISSS since 1995 and 1999 is when we started our SIG on Evolutionary Learning Community, which was derived from our work with Bela Banathy Sr. through ISI � a complement to ISSS since what happens valuable in a conference is the coffee break, so ISI is a week-long coffee break, first focused on the comprehensive redesign of educational systems and later on societal systems. In 1990 we started our ISI team on Evolutionary Learning Community. When Bela A. Banathy Jr. was ISSS president he made an effort to make the conference more participatory so our initiative had goodness of fit. In 2001 our SIG was expanded from ELC to Evolutionary Development � to embrace other means to create sustainable and evolutionary futures.

Kathia: Interested in seeing systems concepts and systems perspectives have an impact in the world, and working on how we can make these ways of seeing and being more accessible to others. How can we close the gap between the systems visionaries with powerful and compelling narratives and the people and organizations who could benefit from them if they could be made more accessible and available to them? I also want to cultivate the question of how we can bring the �red thread� components of the meeting to the foreground.

Debora: Trying to understand how science shapes the ways in which we see the world and act on it. What are the social implications of systems thinking; what is the nature of a new paradigm that might help us create more socially just and equitable institutions and a more sustainable future. It is interesting how many people are alienated by systems thinking. The effort to create more collaborative decision making processes really draws me to this society. The notions of interactive dialogue that people like Kenneth Boulding brought forth represent the kind of opportunities I want to further. However, the structure of our systems are much more based around productivity and not on social relations. My goal for today is how to facilitate this event to really address potential of this conference to be interactive and participatory and not like a classical top-down conference.

Doug: When I took a graduate course from Bela H. in the 1970s it allowed me to see systems � all over the place! I spent several years as a librarian, heading up the main library and the reference department in the city of Palo Alto. I went into Information Systems in a number of contexts � public and private sectors. I ended up working for IBM. Along the way, the intuition I had was that things have changed the way people work and do things and that the organizations are actually more like living systems. One change will always trigger another change. The living systems perspectives has been very useful for me. I attended the 1999 ISSS meeting and gave a talk on how these ideas fit together.

Jeff: I grew up in a pretty heavy academic environment. As wonderful as that was, I got out of there as fast as possible when I was old enough to do so. The ivory tower of academic did not attract me, although I got straight into cognitive learning styles and teaching them to students straight out of high school. The kids become more whole human beings and I did this for about ten years. This brought me out here about seven years ago and managed their Know-Wear Store in Palo Alto. My passion now is to explore how process tools can support communities in their self-development objectives and navigate organizational complexity and change. I hope to be able to bring these tools to bear to support he design process we�re involved in here.

Steven: I�m here to increase my own learning and to find my own answers that I can apply. I�m a practitioner, like Doug. I live in the practical world of seeing things actually happen. My background is in music � the performance arts. I got into technology and computers by accident (of course!). I�ve been a practitioner with Chevron for 10 years and an independent consultant for 15. My dilemma is why do we really �suck� at creating solutions? We�re doing it all wrong � the methods we apply to understanding what our problems and what the challenges are is all wrong. We can solve the concrete problems (like hardware problems), but when it comes to the �dance� of how we participate and collaborate, we�re not very good at it. I�m looking to see how the network comes together and look at other systems, such as the physics of music, can help to align people�s thoughts so that people from different cultures can come to agree when something is in tune, for instance. I think that there are technologies to help with this, and I think that they can be used to provide feedback to help assess if the type of interactions we are engaged with are the kind that we want to be engaged with. (

Doug: Are there limits to design? Are there things we can�t actually design because the systems we�re working with are living?

John: The question of �why�? What is and what is not in the design of the system? Do we have a value position in systems design or is it actually value free?

Kathia: The theme of this conference is about complexity, democracy, and sustainability and it helps us take a position on these questions. It brings in questions of how we are in harmony with each other and how we are in harmony with the rest of the world.

Debora: The institutions we design are not really serving human needs � they may be serving organizational needs, but at best only indirectly human ones.

Alexander: How can we set the �fuzzy guiding principles� � the dynamic interactive �state attractors� � for the ISSS conference? It�s not so much a question of control as it is of creating the conditions that invite certain types of interactions.

Kathia: The conference needs to embody the themes that it will be about � complexity, democracy, and sustainability. We need to have participatory processes, emergent processes, and ways of dealing with it that are, in themselves, sustainable.

John: One thing might be to have conversation starters rather than any sort of more formal presentations. This has worked well at the Presidio Dialogues that Saybrook hosts. One option might be to have a representative of each of the themes each day come together on each day�.

Alexander: On affordances and talking sticks�. The notion of “affordances” relates to qualities inherent in a situation or in an object's sensory characteristic that permit specific kinds of uses. For example, a button, by being slightly raised above an otherwise flat surface, suggests the idea of pushing it. A lever, by being an appropriate size for grasping, suggests pulling it. A chair, by its size, its curvature, its balance, and its position, suggests sitting on it.

Doug: The notion of the three-space Park Bench �

Alexander: These are all �boid attactor� type options for helping guide/shape the emergence of the conference.

Kathia: If we had some over-arching meta-questions it would allows for the conversations to flow with coherence, consistency, and cohesive in an emergent direction. This would help us be directional and direction generating without being overly directed or director driven.

Jeff: �Ship what you know, use what you get, optimize your patch (i.e., your work).� This kind of design flow provides some useful �fuzzy guiding principles� for the participants to do something more than just participate is as separate individuals.

Todd: How can we create a living environment that invites creativity � that is truly inspirational and in line with the themes of the conference?

Alexander: It�s again a question of affordances � designing the spaces/processes that invite different ways of thinking and being.

John: We could use craft materials for people to build their own name-tags, or things of that sort.

Alexander: We need to care for how this conference will be more than a post-modern experiential and transformative event to be one that has some normative implications with value positions about how we could/should transform (as individuals, as an organization, as a society).

Kathia: Two parallel threads here: 1) the guiding questions that help emerge the dynamics of the conversations throughout the week; and 2) the interactive aspects of the participants in the conference that is based on learning/playing throughout the week. Initially, the dialogues should be �learning dialogues� to help clarify and understand the issues. Later in the week, they can become more �strategic dialogues� in terms of action-steps that the participants can take beyond the conference.

John: We could help get the small group dialogues to thread into a sort of �emergent convergence� on the final day that helps people see what this week has led to.

Jeff: Thinks like Network Bingo, a Scavenger Hunt, Buckminster Fuller�s World Game � these sort of things can provide different modalities for people to learn and interact together.

Alexander: The idea of alternating modalities of interaction is essential to creating an inspirational and continually engaging process for the five days of the conference. It will prevent us from stagnating in any one mode of learning.



Today�s Designers Doug McDavid, Debora Hammond, John Adams, Alexander Laszlo, Kathia Laszlo, Jeff Shults, Steve Marcus, Todd Johnston, Lezlie Kinyon (2:00 - 4:00)

A bit about yourself, why you�re here, what you�d like as an outcome of the day�

Common thread of our selves is an interest in seeing Systems thinking having an impact on the world. Each from a different place, we have been asking questions and seeking solutions towards this end.


  • �Why is the move from conceptual to practical is so difficult?� Or, put a different way, �why do we suck at creating solutions?�
  • We are second generation, our legacy will be our progress in closing this gap.

Common desire for the outcomes of the day was a deeper, richer design-sense of the Conference. (Should we continue to call this a �conference� was raised at one point.)


  • A map in the sense of the components�what is the glue�the red

thread manifested?

  • We want this to be more interactive� how can we co-design the structure to address this desire?
  • What are the limits and constraints to what we can actually design?
  • Where does technology fit into the conference (themes, process, content)?

Conversation turned to checking some of our assumptions about systems design and systems thinking�

Why do systems design? Is the system design thinking open at the top? What is in, what is not?

Do we have a �value position� in systems design?

� leading into a mention of the 3 primary, stated themes: Complexity Democracy Sustainability � sustainability is more than just �environment� � it is about sustaining interaction, sustaining experience.

The daily themes of Roots of Systems Thinking Self Organization Living Systems Ecology Social Systems Design & Practice are RED THREADS.

Who or what is in control of the �system� that we create? What is the role of design?

FLOCKING RULES � Link to MG Taylor article on Flocking Rules, BOIDS, flocking behavior in networks and ValueWebs?

What might our rules be?

For plenary speakers: Don�t read from latest paper; open with comments that articulate their vantage point and interests, and that provoke a dialogue around the Theme(s)�similar concept used by The Presidio Dialogues

So what can we do to foster these type of dynamics?

The notion of AFFORDANCES � qualities inherit in anything that invites interaction and use. How can we think of the conference affordances?

Native Americans used a Talking Stick � it was a big, fairly heavy stick and it has to stay off the ground while you speak

�my mind drifts off to wondering about a walking talking sticks and talking walking sticks talking their walk and walking their talk�

Park Bench � 4 chairs, only 3 occupied at a given time. When 4th gets sat in, someone has to get up. These can be panel conversations or open space areas

The themes of Conference are different than themes on any given day� we don�t just want to hear what is in their book� get perspective� half in panel form� half in dialogue�. Always a feed forward to the next plenary

How does content get captured and fed back in?

Scribes (graphic recorders) are one way

Providing materials for participants to self-document, and then a process which instructs/invites/attracts them to contribute their ideas and insights into the Red Threading.

Simple Rules Share what your learn, use what you get, optimize your �patch.�

Will we have a staff of knowledge workers? Grad students, artists

Creating Space � plants, toys, models, natural light, prospect and refuge

Tables? Circles? How to structure the physical space for these �groups�

Nametags � personalized, customized.

No autopilot at the conference � it is about Choice

Guiding Opening Question/Principles for plenary speakers

The questions that feed forward move from Learning Dialogue (Mon-Tues) to Strategic Dialogue (Wed � Fri)

Our Opening � playful, generative dialogue,

  • scavenger hunt?
  • Network Bingo?

As we were all getting rather hungry by this point, we broke for lunch. But not before briefly touching on some technologies such as a wiki, and using walls in commons areas as grafitti walls


Moving to the afternoon Breakouts�

SIGs? � Special Integration Groups. There are approximately 12 at this time that have been identified and are planning to get together. More are likely. There is a tension between the SIGs? and the theme of conference in that the theme changes each year and from day to day, but they are a constant� the relationship between them gets lost or is not made meaningful.

What is the notion of coherence?

Coherence in terms of letting the SIGs? �do their own thing,� in terms of what works well for them, what they are used to, and makes allowances for what matters to them while integrating content and process of the SIGs? with each other and the rest of the conference.

  • We could ask common questions across the SIGS
    • For example: What is the art of what you do? What is the science of what you do? What technology / techniques integrate or cohere the art and science?

The Student SIG could play a central role of integrator, collecting and weaving Red Threads.

They come up with the questions that they want to ask� they can be responsible for know who is where doing what where � as a team, everything going on in the conference is �covered.�

As we fall into a conversation on the uses art to communicate and capture learning, we are joined by Lezlie Kinyon, chair of the Art&Science SIG.

The Art&Science SIG is a place within systems science that brings together art and science to diberate, dialogue � expanding the inquiry of the ISSS.

Could the Art&Science SIG be a part of the Read Threading? How? What? There seems to be a lot of opportunity here.

Lezlie: We have 2 musical ensembles (TJ: I am quite confident that I have misspelled or misheard some or most of the names that follow): � Qui Que Cruz - The Archeology of Terror � Geist (musical organization).

Also, Fey Douglas, documentary filmmaker (did one on Margaret Mead) will be coming and will be presenting to the SIG.

Lane Tracy will be drafting Santa Rosa Choir to sing his Cantata, �Evolution.�

All Art/Sci SIG members will be preparing an abstract� meant to engage researchers

Can the music and performance be part of the evenings?

The performers want to be able to speak to/about what they do � bring an academic sense to the performance, in addition to the performance itself.

Visual artists can help create space.

Evening Session Themes Sunday � Welcoming Monday � Bateson film (world premier); The Fey documentary as well? Might be too much. Tuesday: Local: Food, Health, Climate Change, Water Wednesday: Bridging Generations: Past presidents and Student SIG � Legends & Legacies (aspirations) Thursday: Banquet w/ Boulding and Magical Strings


What matters? The patterns that connect. What is it we do that gives rise to these patterns, what is it we do that mitigates these patterns. Moving beyond academic setting to life� this conference is an inquiry�

Where are we? What have we done? How does it map?

PLENARY We have an initial pattern of how to design. Actions: come up with overarching guiding question which speakers can addrss, links to overall topic; knowing that the general quesions will evollve through the conference� an new, evolved question feeds forward�

So, speakers can come in with �defaults� � presentations, talks � but there is also this emergent dialogue and engagement that is and will continue to evolve up to and through the conference.

A �Safety Net� with room for Emergence

To Design: � What is the Opening Question? � What kind of process do we use each day? What is the structure of the interaction? It will be different each day, intentionally.

A Next Step: Conference Call with potential panelists � getting them onboard

BREAKOUT SESSIONS Main design element � red thread team and room as integrators of SIGS How involve Student SIG in dynamic of red threading? How to involve Art/Science SIG in red threading?

Communication with SIG Chairs � this is a real challenge Some communicate, co-design, many do not.

What Else?

What is our opening move at the Sunday Reception? What to do with the Network Bingo, other modal activities.

What to do with musicians? What are their needs?

How to get Alternative Economies integrated

Designing the 1:00 � 1:30 spaces for artist performances.

Art Gallery There is an alternative gallery adjacent to the Library. Either will be completely open for us to inhabit and fill.

And Finally� Debora � contact Nicholas � Student SIG play w/ Red Threads

NOV 1st � Logistics, 3 � 5 pm, Sonoma State

Outreach� Josh can do some pro-bono work to follow up with Sponsors. Will put together html ads (this is for a fee). Specific form and content TBD

Lezlie � Debora, I want to put you in touch with my daughter�.


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