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Beyond Systems Thinking

ETH Zurich via edX


Climate change, biodiversity loss, pan-syndemics, and energy dependencies are some of today's most pressing complex challenges. Much of our economies are exhaustive, vulnerable, and unfair. We must actively restore and regenerate ecosystems while transforming our economies to become more circular and just. We require new knowledge systems and cultures leading to transformative action as the human impact on earth needs to be fundamentally redesigned.

Scientific knowledge and reasoning are fundamental tools to guide policy decisions, especially in times of crises. Limitations of reductionist science are evident due to the lack of widespread action in addressing today's highly complex challenges, which are self-emergent, unpredictable, span across nested scales, depend on societal behavioral transitions, and lack data.

Design offers creative ways of intervening iteratively, responding to a current problem by prototyping future pathways. Designerly praxis benefits from science, for example, by directing interventions and leveraging relationships based on quantitative data. Neither science's analytical and descriptive tools nor the iterative design process alone are adequate for addressing complex challenges. Combining both cultures and methods of reasoning as a fluid, intervention-based, and synergistic process is beneficial for fostering the urgently required regenerative, transformative action.

This MOOC series, "Designing Resilient Regenerative Systems” offers four consecutive MOOCs that address these urgent and complex challenges. Participants emerge on a learning journey including an emphasis on holistic worldviews, concepts like regeneration and resilience, befriending complexity and uncertainty, methods and hybrid practices of science and design, connecting more with our inner self, and becoming bio-regional weavers within communities of learning and praxis.

This second MOOC focuses on scientific and designerly ways of dealing with complexity. By developing a critical perspective on systems thinking, participants embody their practice of navigating in complexity by continuously zooming out and in as a view from above. A functional understanding of transformative resilience is complemented with an introduction to social network analysis. We learn about circularities and how to design for circularity, leading us to the final theme of how to innovate in complex systems - systemic innovation.

Taught by

Tobias Luthe, Daniel Christian Wahl, Justyna Swat, Fritjof Capra, Birger Sevaldson, Eric L. Berlow, Benjamin Marias, Michael Stauffacher and Haley Fitzpatrick


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