Encounters with Complexity: An African search for a relational theory of radical change

Mark Swilling is Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University where he is also Academic Director of the Sustainability Institute and Co-Director of CST. He is co-author with Eve Annecke of “Just Transitions: Explorations of Sustainability in an Unfair World” (2012). His new book entitled “Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World” will be published by Routledge in late 2019. His research interests connect global sustainability transitions, theories of change, relational complexity in the African context (Ukama), sustainability-oriented governance, complexity-based development economics, the renewable energy revolution, and urban transitions. His last book was “Shadow State: the Politics of State Capture” (2018).

Encounters with Complexity: Impredicative Relationality – The Heart of Complexity

Jannie Hofmeyr is co-founder of the CST and Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Biocomplexity,Stellenbosch University. Over the past 35 years, he has conducted his research in the field of Computational System Biology with the regulation and regulatory design of metabolism as his main focus. More recently, his work focuses on describing the functional organisation of the living cell for which he developed a theory of molecular fabrication to inform a theoretical basis for both system biology and nanotechnology. During 2017—18 he was the president of the Royal Society of South Africa (RSSAf).

Encounters with Complexity: Complexity Science as Relationship, Patterning and Process

Jean Boulton is author of the best-selling book “Embracing Complexity: strategic perspectives for an age of turbulence” (2015). Jean is Associate Research Fellow at Bath and Cranfield Universities (UK) and Director of Claremont Management Consultants Ltd. Her background in theoretical physics coupled with her practical engagement in the fields of management and social research—both through academia, consulting, hands-on management and working as a director, strategy consultant and trustee—give her a multi-faceted, informed and practical perspective on the implications of embracing complexity. Jean is currently a fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.

Resilience Think Tank: Innovations in the theory and practice of psychological resilience

While there have been shifts in the understanding of resilience over the past decade, there is still much debate, contestation and lack of clarity on what the term means, for whom, how can it be measured, how it relates to concepts such as vulnerability, well-being and transformation, and whether it is a useful framework and entry point for responding to the dynamics of global change.

At the Resilience Think Tank, Linda Theron explored innovations in the theory and practice of psychological resilience.

Resilience Think Tank: Tackling the Anthropocene challenge through social-ecological resilience thinking

The Resilience Think Tank provided an opportunity to share and appreciate varying understandings (both positive and negative) of this concept from both a theoretical/academic and more practical perspective.

In this talk, Oonsie Biggs looks at ways to use social-ecological resilience thinking to tackle Anthropocene challenges.

Reflections on Systemic Change

Contemporary definitions of the notion of resilience highlights the fact that resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and transformation. Understanding how systems change remains a challenge in navigating the complexity of the Anthropocene towards resilience and sustainability. Louis Klein, dean of the European School of Governance (www.eusg.eu), challenges our understanding of change and shows ways how and why to organise for purpose and transform social systems based on insights into systemic change, leverage and mind shift. Systems change is not so much about getting things done; it is the art of letting things grow.

Human Systems Dynamics: Foundations, discipline, praxis

Glenda Eoyang works with public and private organizations to help them thrive in the face of overwhelming complexity and uncertainty. She is a pioneer in the applications of complexity science to human systems, and she founded the field of human systems dynamics (HSD). Through Human Systems Dynamics Institute (www.hsdinstitute.org), where she serves as founding executive director, Glenda uses her models and methods to help others see patterns in the chaos that surrounds them, understand the patterns in simple and powerful ways, and take practical steps to shift chaos toward coherence.

CST Visioning Workshop Experience

At an ‘Anthropocene Visioning Workshop’ hosted by the CST in November 2016, a diverse group of key thinkers in southern Africa − including artists, social entrepreneurs, researchers, and policy-makers, was convened to engage in a visioning process to scope a range of plausible “good” futures based on perspectives from a variety of regional actors. This workshop built on the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes collaboration, which is an effort led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, McGill University in Canada, and Stellenbosch University that seeks to counterbalance dystopic visions of the future that may be inhibiting our collective ability to move creatively towards a positive trajectory for the Earth and humanity.

CST Visioning Process

At an ‘Anthropocene Visioning Workshop’ hosted by the CST in November 2016, a diverse group of key thinkers in southern Africa − including artists, social entrepreneurs, researchers, and policy-makers, was convened to engage in a visioning process to scope a range of plausible “good” futures based on perspectives from a variety of regional actors. This workshop built on the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes collaboration, which is an effort led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, McGill University in Canada, and Stellenbosch University that seeks to counterbalance dystopic visions of the future that may be inhibiting our collective ability to move creatively towards a positive trajectory for the Earth and humanity.