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Introduction to the Proceedings of RSD11—Possibilities and Practices of Systemic Design

Proceedings: Editorial, RSD11

Cheryl May and Ben Sweeting

London South Bank University | University of Brighton

RSD11—Possibilities and Practices of Systemic Design, the first RSD symposium to be held in the UK, was hosted by the Radical Methodologies Research Group at the University of Brighton, who set the intention of questioning systemic design’s emerging shape. There was an unprecedented response to the call for contributions, and the resulting RSD11 proceedings—215 contributions in all—present a legacy of possibilities for systemic design.

RSD11 was run as a hybrid event, with sessions available in person, online, and most often both. As the first hybrid RSD, it wasn’t possible to be sure what would work and what wouldn’t. RSD11 took the approach of trying things out. A week-long online series, RSDX-RSD11, front-loaded the symposium with workshops and publicly broadcast panels, accommodating the unexpectedly high number of workshop submissions. The National Institute of Design hosted a series of hybrid sessions in Ahmedabad, India, which also extended the event times for paper sessions. #NewMacy, an initiative of the American Society for Cybernetics, ran what was, in essence, a sub-conference within RSD11, with a programme of online and hybrid studios running over three days. While the in-person programme made the most of coming together in the same place with evening social programmes and book launches,  online-only panels and workshops were scheduled at these times so that online attendees had dedicated sessions at the conclusion of the conference day.

The recordings of keynotes are linked through the proceedings pages. Mathilda Tham, Fran Edgerley, Tony Fry, Lesley-Ann Noel, and Danah Abdulla presented critical and radical possibilities for systemic design. Tham’s opening keynote included communal singing, setting the tone for the whole event.

Perspectives to augment systemic approaches were approached through seven focus areas:

  • Confronting Legacies of Oppression in Systemic Design
  • Design Over Time
  • Designing Radical Shifts in and for Planetary Health
  • Different Stories in Design: Provocations from the work of Gregory Bateson
  • Methods and the Worlds They Make
  • Products are Systemic Objects
  • Reimagining the Intentionality of Architecture

The focuses were not conceived as conventional theme tracks that divide conferences and their content into parallel streams. They drew attention in different directions and in different ways, centring an intentionally irregular and overlapping collection of questions and weaving in and out of focus throughout the programme.

RSD11 received submissions from scholars, practitioners, researchers, and graduate students. Papers were submitted for peer review in two categories. Full papers of 2000-5000 words, discussing the outcomes of research and/or practice projects were submitted for review as complete manuscripts. Presentations and reports encompassing works-in-progress, exploratory and speculative work, and reports on ongoing research and practice projects were submitted as extended summaries of approximately 1000 words. Both full papers and presentations/reports were single-blind peer-review (i.e. reviewers could identify authors but not vice versa). Each submission received at least two reviews. In total, 159 submissions were reviewed by a team of over 81 reviewers and, based on their recommendations, the Scientific Committee accepted 51 full papers and 67 presentations—an acceptance rate of 74%. In every case, reviewers were asked to consider two main elements. The first is to confirm the quality of the work: its significance, whether the references are adequate, how it fits with the RSD11 symposium themes, and so on. The second part of reviewing is sometimes less spoken about, the provision of help rather than judgement. The idea is to suggest ways the submission might be improved. As well as revisions required following reviews, authors had the opportunity to revise and extend their proceedings texts following presentations at RSD11 to respond to comments and ideas during the event. These revisions have been editorially reviewed. The proceedings also include entries for workshops, activity sessions, systems maps, and exhibits, as well as an essay developed from the call for papers and welcoming remarks (Sweeting & Sutherland, 2022).

The efforts that authors, presenters, reviewers, and an incredible group of dedicated professionals put into developing the field of systemic design through RSD are difficult to trace but palpable and compelling. RSD11 forefronted systemic design’s latent transdisciplinarities as ways to extend, critique, and pluralise its modes of working and ranges of reference. What might the second decade of RSD hold for the development of systemic design? Taking Tham’s (2022) work as an example, we look forward to systemic design’s possibilities being “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” (abstract).


Sweeting, B., & Sutherland, S. (2022). Possibilities and practices of systemic design: Questions for the next decade of Relating Systems Thinking and Design. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD11. Article 002.

Tham, M. (2022). Falling in love with complex systems. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD11. Article 004.




Citation Data

Author(s): Cheryl May and Ben Sweeting
Year: 2022
Title: Introduction to the Proceedings of RSD11—Possibilities and Practices of Systemic Design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 001
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 23 April 2023
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

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.