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RSD10: What you need to know

by | Sep 2021 | RSD10 Programme, SDA blog

A tribute to RSD’s 10th anniversary

The RSD10 program represents 119 new contributions to systemic design, presented as keynote speeches, dialogues, practice case studies, gigamaps, and long and short papers. RSD10 represents the most extensive symposium program to date and a fitting tribute to Birger Sevaldson’s vision for an interdiscipline to join systems thinking to design methodology manifest in 2011’s RSD1.

RSD10 Theme: Playing with Tensions

This year, sessions have been curated according to themes that embrace new complexity, collaboration and contexts in systemic design. RSD10 partner, TU Delft’s Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, grounded the theme in the position that the fate of all complex adapting systems in the biosphere – from single cells to economies – is to evolve to a natural state between order and chaos, a grand compromise between structure and surprise.

Complex systems do not lend themselves to much simplification. Systemic designers have no choice but to embrace complexity, and in doing so, embrace opposing concepts and the resulting paradoxes. It is at the interplay of these ideas that they find the most fruitful regions of exploration. – Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe

The main conference theme explores design and systems thinking practices as mediators to deal fruitfully with tensions. Human tendency is to relieve the tensions, and in design, to resolve the so-called “pain points.” But tensions reveal paradoxes, the sites of connection, breaks in scale, and the emergence of complexity.

Can we embrace the tension, the paradoxes as valuable social feedback in our path to just and sustainable futures?

RSD10: SDA member benefits

Systemic Design Association members have the benefit of advance registration for the on-campus program at TU Delft in the Netherlands and workshops. When logged in on this website, members can bookmark articles and permanently save them to their own bookmarks page (see SDA members on the top menu). Members can also comment on articles and start or contribute to forum topics. Join or renew membership | RSD10 member features poster

RSD Proceedings

RSD proceedings are documented on this website as a searchable, online knowledge base that forms the foundation for the emergence of research (techne and empirical studies) and inquiry (praxis and phronesis) defining the discipline. To date, RSD Symposia presenters have contributed 673 discourses and publications have been developed for nine areas of research. Contributions are organised into nine categories: Architecture & Planning, Cases & Practice, Economics & Organizations, Health & Well-Being, Learning & Education, Methods & Methodology, Policy & Governance, Socioecological Design, and Sociotechnical Systems. The collections can be found via the top menu “Expore RSD”, which also offers a way to view content by the session format, proceedings, a collection of artefacts from each year’s event. There is also a search and filter feature accessible from the top menu. By default, all contributions are listed from the most recent. Browse RSD10 session information | View the schedule

RSD10 Sub-themes

Breaks in scale

Systemic design briefs are concerned with large-scale issues which call for a macroscopic perspective. Yet change is often driven by individual actors making decisions within their scope of control, at their own microscopic level. How to combine such macroscopic and microscopic perspectives, considering both the large-scale aims and the individual perspectives, in design?

Collaboration and transdisciplinary working

Systemic issues cannot be dealt with effectively by single disciplines. We need to bring multiple expertise together and push ourselves beyond what we know. But this is easier said than done. Every discipline and field of practice brings a different language, different mindset and different way of working. A variety of disciplinary perspectives together dealing with great uncertainty is a fruitful ground for friction and conflict. What can we learn from this and how to leverage such friction for more effective collaborations?

Value conflicts

When dealing with issues systemically, implies the inclusion of multiple stakeholders and timeframes. No systemic change goes without violations of values that keep the system in place. We do want a healthy planet for future generations, but to reach this, we need to give up on things we value in our current context. How can design creatively deal with tensions between short-term and long-term values, individual and collective values, and values between different stakeholders?

Combining thinking, feeling, and acting

Many of the problems that systemic designers are concerned with a call for urgent actions. They are the realm of entrepreneurs, be they the social or the commercial type. Yet all the busyness of these solvers and makers may not result in much good if we don’t reserve some of our collective energy to thinking, pondering, and questioning. This is the role of the philosopher. Systemic design is at its most effective when drawing on the alternation of thinking and doing, each activity feeding new insights into the other.


Throughout its history, humans have relied on technology to overcome every challenge they encountered. It is thus no surprise that our hopes to address today’s most pressing issues rely so heavily on technological innovation, whether it is a vaccine or a renewable source of power. Yet no technology is ever so powerful that it can do away with human factors, our ability to collaborate and co-create, our power relationships, our capacity for empathy, and our easily bruised egos. How to make the most of the available technologies while addressing human needs and desires?


Final submissions are due on
April 30

Open call for Reviewers
April 1–30

Feedback to authors
June 30

sessions OCTOBER 16–18

RSD13-OSLO & Nordmarka Forest October 22–26

Lidar-derived image of the Danube River and floodplain near Tulln, Austria. Daniel Coe. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

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