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A Reflexive Compass for Navigating Complex Systems: Insights from engaging across diverse mountain communities

Format: Papers, RSD12, Topic: Methods & Methodology, Topic: Socioecological Design

Haley Fitzpatrick and Tobias Luthe

How might a reflexive, mixed-method systemic design approach offer insights for understanding and engaging in emergent, place-specific sustainability transformations? Expanding beyond design methods and including more embodied as well as scientific methods can promote greater inclusivity and diversity in how sustainability challenges are addressed. While systemic design promotes plural methods and ways of knowing, more insight is needed in applying multi-modal approaches across complex, “real-world” applications. Furthermore, greater reflexivity on the implications of systemic design practices and methods is necessary to ensure more responsible scaling of initiatives across diverse cultures, places and contexts. In this presentation, we offer a practical example of how a systemic design process was used to inform a reflexive compass for engaging in rural communities with different stages of sustainability transitions. Based on a longitudinal, comparative research project, a portfolio of methods from systemic design, science, education, and embodied experiences was developed and prototyped across three mountain communities: Ostana, Italy; Hemsedal, Norway; and Mammoth Lakes, California. We used Olmos-Vega et al.’s reflexivity framework to analyse the different contextual, relational, and boundary-related factors that shaped how the methods were used during the emergent process of engaging across each of these communities. We discuss the key takeaways from this process, limitations, and other possible method combinations for future research avenues. From these insights, a series of guiding questions, or a reflexive compass, was developed for others to consider using when navigating complexity and uncertainty in their own research and praxis contexts. 

KEYWORDS: transdisciplinary methods, scaling deep, regenerative design, plural sustainability pathways, real-world practice 

RSD TOPIC(S): Methods & Methodology, Socioecological Design

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Citation Data

Author(s): Haley Fitzpatrick and Tobias Luthe
Year: 2023
Title: A Reflexive Compass for Navigating Complex Systems: Insights from engaging across diverse mountain communities
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/complex-systems-diverse-mountain-communities
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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