Models of Transformative Futures

September 26, 2018

"Since joining the PNCA CD program as a founding faculty member, I've been examining the intersections of systems + design -- and learning a lot from working with students."​

Howard Silverman, MFA CD Faculty Member

Founding MFA Collaborative Design faculty member Howard Silverman will be presenting at the Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium, the 7th annual conference of the Systemic Design Research Network in Turin, Italy. Howard's presentation, titled "Distinctions and Analogies: Mapping Social System Identity", is centered around the notion that examining social situations in complexity terms can bring fresh insights to design theory and practice. Howard developed these concepts working closely with co-author and MFA CD alumna Crystal Rome.

For the past several years, Howard has been collaborating with Crystal to develop a canvas that can be used to facilitate conversations about systemic change. Adopting systems terminology, they call it a "regime shift canvas." It's a strategic design tool for developing descriptive models of transformative futures. Howard used this canvas as one of his tools in a 90-minute workshop, "Design Literacies (for Systemic Change)", that he hosted at the Transformations 2017 conference in Dundee, Scotland.

Howard's interests center on using systems concepts to examine efforts at social change, a passion that grew out of his work at the Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust. With collaborator Greg Hill (University of Portland), Howard wrote about "the dynamics of purposeful change" in a paper recently published by the journal Ecology and Society, the primary journal for scientific writings about social-ecological resilience.

In technical terms, the concept of "resilience" is always in dynamic relationship with that of "transformation." Resilience~Transformation (or stability~change): each is defined by the other. This statement reflects a systems view, and resilience scholarship is fundamentally systems-oriented.

The Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium will run from Oct 24-26 in Turin, Italy.