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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.

Bridging the fields of Systems Science and Cybernetics in North America

During a tour of six weeks and visiting six cities, Angelika Schanda attended three major conferences on Systems Science and Cybernetics. As Program Manager at the BCSSS, Schanda made it her mission to connect the often dispersed communities and groups related to these fields. Toward that end, she traveled across…

A call for more collaboration at the International Conference of the System Dynamics Society in Albuquerque

On her North America Tour to three major systems conferences, BCSSS program manager Angelika Schanda returned to her original specialization with the 37th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society (ISDC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At this third step of her journey, Schanda continued her efforts to interlink the communities…

The ISSS Conference 2019 – A buzzing hub for the BCSSS and scientists throughout the systems sciences

After both deep conversations and playful workshops at the American Society for Cybernetics Conference, Ray Ison (BCSSS Board member) and Angelika Schanda (BCSSS Program Manager) traveled south, from Vancouver, British Columbia to Corvallis, Oregon to attend the 63rd Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS). This…

Playful discovery of the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) Meeting in Vancouver

The 2019 American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) Conference from 24-26 June 2019 in Vancouver, Canada, strongly contrasted the focus of the other two systems conferences on Angelika Schanda’s North America Tour. Its theme ‘Acting Cybernetically’ invited participants to open up to formats that completely differ from the usual academic paper…

Delegation from the Art Academy of Latvia show interest in systems science principles for design

On May 5, Master’s students from the Functional Design Department of the Art Academy in Riga, Latvia requested to visit the Bertalanffy Center for an introduction to systems science and design. They spent an internship of two months at hi-pe.at, design partner of the BCSSS, where they worked on pedestrian…

We welcome Angelika Schanda as new team member who sets out to build strong networks

Promoting cooperation between all sectors and disciplines & enhancing systems science and its practical application – this is the passion of our newest team member, Angelika Schanda. With this focus, she will support the BCSSS’ role as an ambassador for system science. She takes over the baton from Marina Naomi…

Launch event “Design the Change” by designaustria Expert Cluster Sustainable Design

BCSSS Managing Director Stefan Blachfellner, member of the designaustria Expert Cluster Sustainable Design, introduced the Bertalanffy Center at the launch event of the event series “DESIGN the CHANGE!” in the designforum of  designaustria. The focus of the event series DESIGN the CHANGE! is ecological sustainability in design. In an interactive…