When a Tree is also a Multispecies Collective, a Photosynthesis Process, and a Carbon Cycle

Format: Papers, RSD10, Topic: Methods & Methodology, Topic: Socioecological Design

Emīlija Veselova and İdil Gaziulusoy

A systemic typology of natural nonhuman stakeholders when designing for sustainability

Design is increasingly aware of the sustainability crisis. Various initiatives have started to argue for a need to acknowledge and accommodate the needs of natural entities and systems in relation to sustainability. Such more-than-human considerations have also entered collaborative and participatory design. However, there yet seems to be a lack of broad and systemic perspectives on which natural entities to consider when designing for sustainability. Therefore, we developed a systemic typology of natural nonhuman stakeholders based on empirical study in a garden and analysis rooted in the distinctions, relationships, systems, perspectives – DRSP – theoretical structure for systems thinking. Our typology suggests seven distinct types: individual organisms, single-species collectives, multispecies collectives, life processes, living systems, biogeochemical cycles and processes of the atmosphere. However, our findings indicate that one living entity represents several stakeholder types simultaneously. This illuminates a tension between the simplistic and systemic view of stakeholders in collaborative design and calls for a shift towards systemic mental models and new theories, approaches, methods and tools. In this article, we present our methodology and the developed typology; then, we discuss the potential implications of the typology on collaborative and participatory design and avenues for further research.

Keywords: more-than-human design, multispecies design, co-design, systems thinking, design for sustainability

To view the sketchnote details, click the black arrow on the right. You can zoom in from the view on the new image and explore the whole image. You can also download the full-size image from the new tab.

Sketchnote by Patricia Kambitch | Playthink

Citation Data

Author(s): Emilija Veselova and Idil Gaziulusoy
Title: When a Tree is also a Multispecies Collective, a Photosynthesis Process, and a Carbon Cycle
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 3 September 2021
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights