Governing in the Anthropocene: towards systemic governance

Ray Ison
11 July 2016

The talk will reprise themes associated with a number of international addresses given in 2016 that address the question of what does the field of cybersystemics have to offer for governing in the Anthropocene? A response to this question entails examining how the concept 'system' has gone feral and its implications as well as what a field of cybersystemics might look like, and why? Through groundings in his own research Ray will explore what ways governing might be understood and enacted into the future whether globally, nationally, organisationally or at the level of programme or project. Some of the framing considerations for a new book will be explored (Diamonds are not Forever?); this is a collaboration with Ed Straw that emerged from the SCiO meeting in London in 2015.

Ray Ison has an international reputation in, and has been a major contributor to, ‘cybersystemics’. What is this field you may well ask? Ray's rationale for using this term was explained in the presentation last year at ISSS2016 in Berlin of his Presidential Address for the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), and also in a special ‘systemic inquiry’ at Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover details of which can be found at this site:

Amongst other matters raised at these events was the significant institutional complexity in the cybersystemic field and the lack of intellectual and political influence for investment in and the furtherance of cybersystemic scholarship – particularly in key policy and research funding fora associated with the UN, Brussels, Washington and the like. This is depite the growing awareness that the issues of our time, the Anthropocene, if you will, are systemic in nature and thus require systemic responses, i.e., transformations.

Ray has been Professor of Systems at The Open University (OU), UK since 1994. Following many (ongoing) mergers OU Systems academics who number about 10 are now located in the School of Engineering and Innovation in a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Faculty. Within this broader structure Systems academics are organized as the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) group (see ). The group is responsible for a successful MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice (see ) which currently has just under 1500 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: