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Socio-ecological Systems and Design

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 transdisciplinary process in order to decode and encode domain and 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 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.


© Jürgen T. SturanyStefan Blachfellner is the Managing Director of the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (BCSSS) in Vienna, hosting the European Meetings on Cybernetics and Systems Research and the Circular Economy Forum Austria, a former Vice President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), and former Vice President and General Secretary of the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR). From 2016 to 2018 he was appointed as Special Adviser to the European Commissioner for Transport.

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, Slovenia, France, Belgium, China and the USA.

His current projects are focused on the development of a General Systems Transdiscipline, Systems Design, Systemic Innovation and Impact Assessment to improve methods for addressing complex challenges towards the so called Next Economy, in particular the Circular Economy.

Save the dates! ISSS 2020, South Africa

Save the dates for your participation in the International Society for the Systems Sciences 64th Annual Meeting! 11 – 14 July 2020 Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch (near Cape Town), South Africa. Systemic Change towards Sustainable Development: Innovative and Integrative Approaches   Further detailed information will be published soon at http://isss.org/world/ISSS_2020  …

Call for submissions! INCOSE International Symposium 2020 South Africa

Take part at the 30th INCOSE International Symposium! 18 – 23 July 2020Cape Town, South Africa Systems Engineering for Earth’s FutureUniting Technology and Grand Challenges through Systems Engineering The INCOSE International Symposium is the premier international forum for systems engineering. Participants network, share ideas, knowledge and practices, and learn more…

Great interest in systemic perspectives by young changemakers at the Local Conference of the Youth Austria

This year’s Local Conference Of Youth Austria (LCOY), the Austrian Youth Climate Conference, in Vienna from 8 to 10th of November featured two sessions on systems thinking. The registration lists for the two sessions were already full in the early mornings, when most students had not yet registered for most…

Stefan Blachfellner and Thomas Wallner invited speakers to the Magna Logistics Days 2019

Together with BCSSS board member Thomas Wallner, BCSSS managing director Stefan Blachfellner was an invited speaker to the Magna Logistics Days 2019 in Schloss Seggau, Leibnitz, Austria, on October 15-16. The Magna Logistics Days are used by exhibitors from all over Europe in the areas of Transport & Logistics Service…

BCSSS Circular Economy Systems team contributes to the Academy for Circular Economy in Belgrade

BCSSS Research leaders Ladeja Godina Košir, Karin Huber-Heim and Stefan Blachfellner have been invited to contribute to the co-design of the ACE Circular Economy Academy in Belgrade, Serbia, after the successful 4th Circular Change conference in May 2019 in Slovenia. Together the set the tone and opened the Academy with…

Groundbreaking new apprenticeship program promotes systems science principles in practice

Building on a 2017 initiative by Ray Ison, BCSSS board member, IFSR president and professor at the Open University UK, in convening a meeting of employers from which emerged an employer-led Trailblazer Committee, the UK the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education has recently approved a new Master’s level apprenticeship…