RSD6 – Environment, Economy, Democracy: Flourishing Together
RSD6 Chair & Editor

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD6) 2017 Symposium

AHO hosted RSD1 RSD2 RSD3 RSD6

Editor: Birger Sevaldson, AHO

The RSD6 symposium was held at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), Oslo, Norway, October 18-20, 2017. Following two years in Canada, RSD returned to its home location for the RSD6 Symposium. This demarcated that the startup period for the systemic design movement is over and that we can move towards new phases of development.

The proceedings show the abstracts, presentations and working papers as well as videos and sketchnotes. They are the result of the unique publication ladder of RSD. The ladder starts with the peer review of abstracts as submissions to the conference. The next step is the presentation, participation and feedback from discussions in the symposium. After the symposium, the presenters submit a working paper that updates their thesis and support from the conference feedback. In the last step, authors are invited to submit a full paper to selected scientific design research journals.

RSD6 Theme

The theme of RSD6 was Environment, Economy, Democracy: Flourishing Together. The theme encompassed the contexts for flourishing in democratic societies and explored the opportunities for systemic design, which is reflected in the call:

  • Democratic participation and policy innovation
  • Strongly sustainable business innovation
  • Flourishing communities
  • Design of architectures, settlements and built environments

RSD6 engaged many complementary themes and speakers on critical human system issues connecting to flourishing and democracy, including:

  • Social impact on flourishing and change programs
  • Health and population wellness
  • Ecological design and bioregion development
  • Human-scaled and regional economies
  • Sociotechnical and technological systems
  • Other themes relating to systems thinking and design

See the Book of Abstracts for sessions by RSD6 sub-themes.

The keynotes for RSD6 offered an inspiring range of perspectives on the changes to design practice and education emerging from the demands of civilizational turbulence and continuous complexity of our services, systems and societies. RSD6 holds a centre for the inquiry into human and ecological flourishing, as relevant to the re-envisioning and redesign of business, policies, organizations and our own methods for design, including those methods for governing ourselves in modern civilization.

The plenary speakers were invited from within and beyond the submitted contribution. They were composed to fill in gaps and lift special themes we thought were of interest to the community.

The tracks were composed partly of our call and partly organic from the submitted material. As all categorizations, they do not reflect an orderly separation of the content. Many, if not most, of the submissions, could easily fit into several tracks. We ask the reader to keep this in mind. To compensate for this weakness, we added links at the beginning of each track to interconnect the separate tracks. We urge you to look at the proceedings as an imperfect representation of a knowledge web rather than an accumulation of discrete categories.

RSD6 Trends

Nevertheless, the tracks reveal some trends or lack of such. The economy track ended up being very small. This reflects the lack of focus and interest in this topic’s advanced design (research) community. This is not a situation we can be happy with, as seen from a systems perspective, as the economy is central to societal systems. In the future, we need to engage in better discussions on new economic models and developments such as the circular economy. In addition, the environment and sustainability track ended up being small. When judging this, one has to keep in mind the above-mentioned interconnectedness of themes and topics. The Flourishing theory is highly related to sustainability. Despite this, environmental issues need to be confronted even better in the future.

Other tendencies are the rich tracks on service and policy design and public services, demonstrating how these areas are naturally integrating with systemic design. We are also satisfied with the two tracks on the built environment, urbanism and architecture. For systemic design to become truly systemic, it is essential to maintain and build its interdisciplinary perspectives.

Finally, we are satisfied with the development of systemic design methodology and pedagogy and the fact that we managed to interlink design for democracy with the long-established design tradition of participation. There’s much more to be mentioned. One of our returning tracks is systemic design cases. It is central because it is an expression of the RSD intention to be oriented towards real-world actions and resolutions.


A few words about the build-up of the proceedings: for most submissions, we have the presentations in addition to the abstracts and the working papers. For the keynotes and plenaries, we also have video recordings. For keynotes, plenaries and some additional presentations, we have wonderful sketchnotes created by Patricia Kambitsch from, the official longtime RSD sketchnoter. We also added a book of abstracts to download and print for convenience.

The last aspect of the proceedings is the Exhibition catalogue. Like all years before, we organized an extensive exhibition of Gigamaps and other visual material and artefacts. This year we thought it would be worth documenting this online. Most entries have abstracts and explanatory texts. For some of the maps, the texts are integrated. You can click the images to see large versions and inspect the details.

With thanks to the organizing committees and the local teams.

Birger Sevaldson
Chair, RSD6

Tønsberg | 1 February 2018

Posted Feb-2018