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Mathilda Tham

Uncompromisingly systemic and holistic approaches for home making together on Earth

What if fear of systems and complexity were a significant barrier to urgent change? What if we didn’t save our planet because it was just all too embarrassing?

This talk explores how we can design capacities for working as change agents from within complex systems. This includes how we can love and not be scared of systems, how we can collaborate across diverse communities of knowledge and practice—and how we can make language that works as bridges instead of fences. Tham describes how understanding design as learning, languaging and governance (after Fletcher and Tham, 2019) can support distributed leadership, agency and new imagination.

The talk draws on transdisciplinary and co-creative research in the contexts of the global fashion sector, regional housing, an ageing society, caring for forests, as well as design education for change agents. This work is informed by feminist, decolonial, post-growth perspectives, systems thinking and action research, as well as sea swimming, playing with food, talking with ants and singing in the rain.

Mathilda Tham is a feminist activist and metadesigner whose work creates thought and action spaces outside the economic growth logic. She is Professor in Design at Linnaeus University, Sweden, where she has pioneered degree programmes focused on change making and affiliated with Goldsmiths, University of London. Her visionary work in research as activism, transdisciplinary co-creation and fashion as futures making has been published internationally. She is the co-author of Earth Logic: Fashion Action Research Plan (2019) with Kate Fletcher. The Earth Logic project has led to policy initiatives for the global fashion sector (European Environment Bureau), new media platforms, and a series of dialogues with industry and governance. Mathilda Tham is a co-founder of the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion.

She was a member of the Board of Mistra Future Fashion, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental research. At Linnaeus University, Mathilda Tham is scientific leader for The Bridge Collaboration Arena and leads the project Forest Meetings, hosted by Linnaeus Knowledge Environment Green Sustainable Development.

From 2023 Mathilda Tham will lead the project Cultural Entrepreneurship – Earth Logic design, which will systematically evaluate the values that design based on a new logic can create. This project is part of the larger project InKuis, PI Anders Högberg (Kamprad Foundation) with the aim of exploring and strengthening the opportunities for cultural entrepreneurship in Småland.

Graphics by Chantal Spencer

Sketchnote by Chantal Spencer

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Citation Data

Author(s): Mathilda Tham
Year: 2022
Title: Falling in Love with Complex Systems
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 004
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/falling-in-love-with-complex-systems
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 22 October 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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