Si Conference Barcelona

This week I was in Barcelona for the first edition of a multidisciplinary and multisectoral event called Systems Innovation, organized by the Complexity Labs (now called Systems Innovation ).

There were thinkers and practitioners of systemic innovation, from countries such as Belgium, Holland, England, Finland, South Africa and the United States.

As representatives of Latin America, we met some Colombians and a Guatemalan living and working in Barcelona, ​​and there was the Brazilian caravan led by Danilo Oliveira Vaz , collaborator of Complexity Labs and promoter of , including Alessandra Bernardo, responsible for the Petrobrás innovation laboratory, and Diego Del Moral and I for the Disruptive Design Collective .

Below I will leave some points that I considered important in the conferences:

  • Louis Klein is Rector of the European School of Governance and founder of the Systemic Change Institute. In his opening talk, he mentioned three levels of systemic change : 1. evolutionary change , that is, that which occurs without the need for specific interventions, 2. change through project management (which is often seen technical point of view, but associated with its political context and culture, become projects of high social complexity) and 3. the change of mentality, which is more sustainable over time. Louis brought criticism from the systemic point of view to the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and impact investment (are we just strengthening the system we want to change?).
  • Sonia Navarro is Director of the Social Innovation Institute of ESADE, and as moderator of a panel on this topic, presented a diagram with the different approaches to innovation (especially public) produced by Nesta, which I had not seen and I found very interesting :


  • Bejamin Taylor is a partner-director of RedQuadrant and has decades of experience in the transformation of public service. I loved all your contributions, very critical and well-humored. Unfortunately I did not see her talk (although Diego Del Moral did see it and I hope she can comment more on it), but in the panel on social innovation, she mentioned that “bad people” are very good in systemic change (think about strategies for fakenews and how they are working!) , so, when you master this topic, be careful because you can also be the “bad person” and not realize … Very good provocation and alert to the manipulation of people, even with good intentions . At another time he commented on an experience whereby increasing the scale of a systemic intervention, all the bonds of trust built so far have been broken .
  • Orit Gal is Professor of Strategy and Complexity at Regents University in London, and presented her approach based on social ecology called ” Social Acupuncture “” To begin with, he mentions two basic levels to change a system: making sense of the system (conceptual level) and impacting the system (operational level). He mentions that “bad systems” also work, and very well! The systems that are generating inequality, for example, are coherent in terms of economy, technology, culture. The “rival systems” consume energy and are in constant movement (non-equilibrium). In relation to the systemic intervention, it clarifies that nobody can operate at the systemic level, since all and any action is taken from a singular perspective. To determine an intervention, it is fundamental to analyze oneself as well as the tendencies that are guiding the strategic current of the system.The “acupuncture points” are in the small interventions that take advantage of the existing flow of resources, information and behavior through the networks.

According to Orit, rival systems can not be destroyed, but they can be transformed if we strengthen and break dynamics that are already flowing within them. It is just the beginning and origin of the Disruptive Design name 🙂


  • All spoke of the importance of measuring a systemic intervention, but nobody spoke of measurement methods. In my panel, for example, we talk about the accountability of the systemic interventions we do, which can often cause very serious unintended consequences – worsening of the local economy, destruction of the environment, even death – but how Track the direct and indirect effects in a system?
  • When I participated as a panelist, I raised a question about the internal conflict that I bring between more top-down systemic interventions, including rigorous evaluations of social impact versus more emergent systemic interventions and “bottom-up”, where systemic principles such as interconnectivity , the emergence and delays in the effects make it difficult to isolate an intervention for its proper evaluation. With that we come to the issue of Social Impact Bonds / Contracts (Social Impact Bonds), on which Benjamin Taylor brings a very critical vision. Right now we are deepening this conversation and I hope to soon bring updates on that here.

The panel where I shared my thoughts on Systemic Innovation with Peter Jones, from OCADU University (Canada) and Pedro Portela, conflict mediator (Portugal).

  • enter for Complex Systems in Transition  - CST (South Africa) gave a workshop on the co-creation of systemic change, with the aim of reimagining desirable, sustainable and fair futures: Seeds of Good Anthropocenes . The participants were divided into groups, each group received a “seed” – in my case, the description of Memphis Meats, the company that is producing meat in the laboratory from animal cells – and were invited to describe a scenario in which the seed was the most common and commonplace. Around this scenario, we were indicating possible STEEPV effects – social, technological, economic, environmental, political and values. Around these effects, we were adding other sub-effects and so on, until composing what they called “wheels of the future”. Finally, the wheels of the future were crossed with each other, to generate more complex visualizations of future horizons (The Manoa Mashup Method).
In our “wheel of the future”, the production of meat in large-scale laboratories had effects on farmers’ means of economic survival, the relationship of humans with animals, public health and the normalization of genetic modification for others. Finnish.
  • Philippe Vandenbroeck is a founding partner of ShiftN and talked about the five horizons of the mastery of systems: 1) Tools (diagrams of causal cycles, simulation of dynamic systems, analysis of social networks, paradoxical thinking, appreciative research, total cost accounting, maps of problems …), 2) Methods (such as the Namahn Systemic Design Toolkit , MaRS Discovery District, Systemic Design Association and ShiftN), 3) Learning (how the system has space to learn and adapt: ​​LUMAS model – Learning for a User by a Methodology), 4) Ethos (how we position ourselves in this system, from what perspective we look or intervene – the example given wasThe Logic of Care ) and 5) Epistemology (how knowledge is generated). Philippe concludes by recommending the triad of systemic thinking + systemic action + being systemic.
The LUMAS model : Learning for a User by a Methodology
  • Peter Jones, from OCADU University and Systemic Design Association (Toronto, Canada), gave a workshop on the Systemic Design Toolkitdeveloped in conjunction with Namahn, MaRS Discovery District and ShiftN and available for download for free. Like Disruptive Design , its approach mixes Systems Thinking, under the perspective of “how we got here” (framing, listening, understanding) and Design Thinking, “how we got there” (exploring, designing, fostering). Peter also recommended the RSD8 event : Systems Change for Governance: Design + Networks + Activation, October 17-19 at the IIT – Institute of Design, Chicago.
  • Diego Del Moral gave a workshop based on a real case in Latin America to address what is and how Disruptive Design addresses systemic thought and practice.
Disruptive Design Workshop, taught by Diego Del Moral
  • Danilo Oliveira Vaz from presented the process and the results of an interesting experiment, where he conducted a process based on the emergence to put together his presentation and then defined a model based on this experience. His lecture was transmitted via Zoom and is available here (in English).

The event has been an incredible experience for me, to know, connect and exchange with other people and organizations that are also addressing systemic thinking and practice not only as an object of research, but also oriented towards action.

What did you think about the highlights of the event? Do you know other forums where these issues are also protagonists? I will love to meet you! Leave your observations in the comments below.

Author: Cristina Yoshida

Date: April 6th 2019