Socio-ecological Systems and Design

In co-operation with the International Society for the Systems Science (ISSS) Special Integration Group (SIG) on Socio-Ecological Systems the Research Group Socio-Ecological Systems and Design investigates the interdependencies of natural – social – technological systems to develop appropriate design competencies for future oriented thrivable ecologies. We work at the interface of science – humanities – engineering/design.

Biologists, economists, engineers, architects, designers, social scientists and philosophers are invited to start a conversation and to exchange individual tools, methodologies, material and ways of operating. We are looking for developing strategies and designing systems of design for a ‘theory and practice of Gestaltung’ in a newly framed environment. Instead of continuing parallel running research projects, we encourage researchers from science, humanities, economics, and engineering disciplines as well as practitioners to collaborate in a trans-disciplinary process in order to decode and encode discipline specific modes of working, to strengthen the involved disciplines.

Design (Gestaltung) is more than a human potential. All we as humans do or not do is Gestaltung. The Research Group conducts research that takes the complexity of ecological, social, and technological systems into account and extends the subject matter into the paradigm of design and Gestaltung as living and learning system.

Emerging interdisciplinary design approaches like Transformation Design have been associated with work within communities for socially progressive ends, but also with work within organizations to introduce human-centered design approaches. Research and practice have been related to the role and impact of organizational development, business model innovation, innovation ecosystems, creative communities and social innovation as well as in urban design and regional development, and even the wide debate on the redesign of public services and the welfare state.

Expertise beyond the designers is a requirement! Transformation design tackles large scale complex issues involving many stakeholders and components, and their interdependencies. Co-creative “design with” the system approaches informed by Evolutionary and Social Systems Design insights are applied in holistic, multi-stage, iterative processes to engage with the complex dynamic systems and their constantly arising novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization, called emergence.

The Research Group extends its focus succeeding the symposia Architectural Ecologies: Code, Culture and Technology at the Convergence and Emergent Design at the European Meetings of Cybernetics and Systems Research 2014 and the expert panel Transforming systems through design at the  International Society for Information Studies Summit 2015.

The Research Group engages in

  • Architecture and Spatial Design
  • Biological, systemic and computational design strategies
  • Urban design (e.g. sustainable urbanism, smart cognitive cities), and regional development
  • Biodiversity, agriculture and rural development
  • Designing and governing from biosphere reserves to nature sanctuaries
  • Design of supply networks in public services (e.g. energy, water, traffic and public transport, information technologies and telecommunications, health care, and education infrastructures) and value networks in business services
  • Designing Innovation and Business Ecosystems (cross-overs welcome)
  • Designing research and development systems and governmental systems to address the challenges of future oriented thrivable ecologies.


Please find here past and current projects of the research group!


For further questions or suggestions please contact the Research Group leader:


© Jürgen T. Sturany

Stefan Blachfellner is the Managing Director of the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (BCSSS) in Vienna and the Conference Manager for the European Meetings on Cybernetics and Systems Research (emcsr/avantgarde), a former Vice President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), and former Vice President of the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR). He co-founded the journal Systema: Connecting Matter, Life, Culture, and Technology.

He has broad experience as an entrepreneur and business consultant, and has taught entrepreneurship, leadership, creativity and innovation management, future studies, and various systems theories at several universities and in professional management training programs in Austria, Germany, China and the USA. His current research is focused on the development of a General Systems Transdiscipline as a foundation for Systems Design, Systemic Innovation and Impact Assessment to improve methods for addressing complex challenges facing Socio-Ecological Systems towards the so called Next Economy.

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