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RSD12-Washington DC: Emerging from Entanglement


defining new trajectories

Hosted by Georgetown University | October 18–20, 2023 | USA | Washington, D.C.

Our entanglement is both a source of confusion and a source of power. We cannot escape the reality that everything we do is dependent on what has come before and interdependent with what happens around us. More importantly, our collective future will depend on what we do next.

Considering systems and entanglements—natural, technological, political and foundational—situates systemic design and designers within the interconnected questions, patterns, and impacts that are shaping the emergent systems reconfiguring our world.

Investigating the uncertainties around emerging technologies and their sociotechnical systems offers theories of change that can elucidate the present and future, provides reproducible methods and processes for expanding engagement, and demonstrate the power of design for systems change.

Call for Contributions | Deadline for abstracts May 31 | Complete submissions due June 15 | Registration coming soon

RSD12-Washington DC Setting

For those who are participating in RSD12-ONLINE sessions and possibly one or more in-person RSD12-HUBS, the culminating RSD12 programme offers a time to reflect and make sense of the experience. However, this is also a standalone symposium of interest to policymakers, changemakers, academics, and practitioners who are using systemic design approaches or are intrigued about systemic design’s interdisciplinary approach to transformative change.

New entanglements will be foremost, but we will also discover new perspectives on old entanglements. RSD12-Washington will feature presentations from RSD-HUBS—an incredible opportunity to get views from people engaged in systemic design in 11 regions: Ahmedabad, Amsterdam, Bogotá, Edmonton, Loughborough, Monterrey, Nordmarka Forest (Oslo), Pittsburgh, Toronto, Turnin, and Vancouver. The Georgetown symposium will also bring together the entanglements of interest through a series of sessions by regionally-based presenters. We aim to situate core learnings and key takeaways from local gatherings within the larger framings provided by the entanglements—to situate systemic design and designers within the interconnected questions, patterns, and impacts that are shaping the emergent systems reconfiguring our world.

RSD12-Washington is hosted by Georgetown University, a top-ranking academic and research institution comprised of 11 undergraduate and graduate schools and degrees in more than 40 disciplines. If you plan to join the culminating in-person three-day event at Georgetown University, it’s worth planning to stay the weekend. RSD12 is situated near Washington DC museums, which number more than 75 and include the Smithsonian Institution’s 17 museums, many galleries and a zoo. (Bonus: many of the museums are free of charge.)

FOCUS: Disentangling Emergence

The RSD12 call for contributions is now open and accepting submissions for papers, online workshops, and exhibits.

Technological Entanglements

Artificial Intelligence is on everyone’s mind, and the disruptions it portends justify that attention. However, AI, in all its manifestations, is just one of a collection of emerging technologies (quantum computing, nanotechnologies, CRISPR, etc.) that will have profound and destabilising effects on humanity. We aim to further discussions about technologies that are on the horizon and what futures they make possible — or impossible. Where should we place boundaries around technological development and adoption? What limits do we need to redefine? What processes should we use to set these boundaries?

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology and Ethics, Citizen Science, Data Science

Natural Entanglements

Climate change has been with us for generations, but its long-anticipated consequences are finally being felt. While optimism about the possibility of mitigating the worst impacts of climate change should be a foundation of all work in this area, we also need to reckon with the reality that our world still lacks the structures and will to undo the damage we have already done to our planet and to acknowledge that the worst of those impacts are being felt by those least responsible. For these reasons, we are particularly interested in work that addresses the short- and medium-term impacts of climate change at local scales (household, neighbourhood, region), identifies and empowers communities that face the worst impacts, and offers transposable solutions for sustaining life amid profound environmental disruptions.

Keywords: Climate Justice, Adaptation, Resilience, Indigenous Knowledge

Entanglements of Policy and Power

No discussion of emergence in systems is complete without an understanding of the regulatory apparatus that shapes it — both from the external environment and from internal constraints. The power to influence emergence is not evenly distributed, but aggregated in localities of control. These leverage points have outsized effects, and deserve particular attention. What rules and regulations are having the most impact? Which need to be replaced and what should replace them? How do we identify leverage points, excavate their influence, and demonstrate their potential? How can the balance of power be shifted?

Keywords: Social Justice, Ethics, Leverage Points, Representation, Policy Metrics

Foundational Entanglements

As systemic design continues to emerge from the interaction of theories and methods in systems thinking and design, we must pay special attention to how these theories and methods shape our understanding of the world, the development of the field, and systemic design’s relationship to other disciplines. Submissions in this track should address some aspect of a foundational or fundamental element of systemic design. Examples include: interrogating a concept or method from a new perspective, introducing a concept or method from another discipline, and exposing the limits or possibilities of existing theories and methods.

Keywords: Co-Design, Futuring, Reflexivity, Diffractive Methodologies, Systems Science, Design Science


Technological Entanglements

Mothilal Loganathan, Pavan Kalyan, and Vishruth Kumar (2022). Blockchain for Socio-Economic Impact: Financial inclusion by environment-centric service design. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium. 

Olaf Adan, Dan Lockton, and Steven Houben (2022). Participatory Sensemaking Through Visualising Conversations. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium.

Natural Entanglements

Ben Sweeting (2022). Architectural Roots of Ecological Crisis. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium.

Kristin Stoeren Wigum (2022). A Systemic Approach to Traps and Opportunities for Sustainable Value Chains in Norwegian Forestry. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium.

Entanglements of Policy and Power

Danielle Lake (2022). Reconsidering Power and Place in Systemic Design: Strategies for scaling scree and scaling deep. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium.

Natalija Vojno (2022). Braiding Knowledge Systems as Environmental Peacebuilding: A four-dimensional analysis for co-applying Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium.

Foundational Entanglements

Ingrid Mulder, Maria Belén Buckenmayer, and Ryan J.A. Murphy (2022). A Call for Scaling Literacy. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium.

Adeline Hvidsten and Anna Kirah (2022). Relics and Resources: Representing complexity in service and systemic design. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11) Symposium.



The programme and schedule are in development. In the meantime, you can add this reminder to your calendar



The budget and fees are in development.


Dr Evan Barba is an associate professor in the Communication, Culture and Technology Program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and co-director of the Technology Design Studio, a multidisciplinary laboratory for the design and analysis of socio-technical systems. His research examines the close coupling of human-machine systems at every level of scale, from the personally embedded (brain-computer interfaces) to the extraterrestrial (satellite servicing systems). Evan is also an affiliated faculty with the Department of Computer Science, Program in Learning and Design, the Georgetown Environment Initiative, and the Global Cities Initiative. His research has been funded by NASA, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Laudato Si’ Fund, and others. Evan is also a lifetime maker and tinkerer, and when not researching, he enjoys creating all manner of artefacts from the purely functional to the absolutely ridiculous. He is one of the SDA founding members and joined the board in 2019.

historical campus of georgetown university

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 scholar’s spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholar's 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.


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