Ray Ison has been Professor of Systems at The Open University (OU), UK since 1994, where he is part of group responsible for a successful MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice (see http://www.open.ac.uk/choose/ou/systemsthinking) which currently has just under 1.500 alumni actively engaged in a LinkedIn community. From 2008-15 Ray was also Professor at the Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University, Australia where he developed and led the Systemic Governance Research Program, an interdisciplinary, systems-based research program focusing on water governance, climate change adaptation and social learning. At the Open University he has through various commissioned projects and initiatives, usually entailing collaborative research, demonstrated how social learning, including systemic inquiry, can be employed as an alternative governance mechanism for managing in complex situations such as water governance, program and project governance, climate change adaptation, food security research, social learning and the purposeful creation of communities of practice. He is the author of the book (2010): Systems Practice: How to Act in a Climate-change World (Springer & OU). Most of his major research publications can be seen or accessed here: http://oro.open.ac.uk/view/person/rli2.html. He was in 2015-16 President of the ISSS (International Society for Systems Sciences).
Governance in the Anthropocene: cybersystemic possibilities?
The “Anthropocene” is a term formulated by Earth scientists to claim that we have entered a new geological epoch: human influences have become so great that they are affecting “whole Earth dynamics” through a range of biophysical and social processes leading to complex global changes. Congruent with these global changes, there is increasing evidence that current “governance systems” too often are not fit for contemporary circumstances. “Living in the Anthropocene”, regardless of whether this is an adequate framing choice, means that we are collectively in a period new to human history (following Humberto Maturana, when we accept a new explanation our world changes). This novel context calls for a critical reflexion of our past thinking, practices, institutions, patterns of investment and governance: the problems that will arise in this epoch will steadily become more severe, unpredictable, complex, and of a magnitude hitherto unseen. But to date cybersystemic understanding and praxis (theory-informed action) - a way to avoid simplistic approaches – has been barely present in the unfolding discourse about governance. “Problem-solving” has been reduced to the application of techno-centric knowledge and pseudo-solutions. It seems necessary therefore to take a “design turn” towards more cybersystemic governance of social-ecological systems. We need to understand “how underlying systemic processes generate our experienced world”, to inform the design of transformative practices in public policy and requisite governance arrangements in the Anthropocene. The principle emotions that this track seeks to engage are those of inquiry (an acceptance of uncertainty) and hope (recognition that enthusiasm and human responsibility are central to human attempts to navigate a co-evolutionary future that is ethically defensible).