Designing and developing learning systems for managing systemic change in a climate change world

Blackmore, Chris and Ison, Ray (2012). Designing and developing learning systems for managing systemic change in a climate change world. In: Wals, Arjen E. J. and Corcoran, Peter Blaze eds. Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers, pp. 347–363.




Living and learning processes involved in managing systemic change in the context of sustainability are explored. We write as designers of a UK Open University module first studied in 2010 as part of a new MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice. Our mature students were practitioners from a wide range of domains who through online discussions and blogging grounded the module materials in their own circumstances and developed their own community. Students challenged themselves, each other and the authors as learning system designers and developed critical appreciation of systems practice and social learning systems, drawing on their own experiences of change. Issues of learning system design and facilitation of learning are addressed; we reflect on what was learnt by who and how and for what purposes. Two conceptual strands incorporated into the design are highlighted: (i) Wenger’s idea of a landscape of practices used to map what learning for sustainability in times of accelerating change looks like and (ii) systemic inquiry, an institutional innovation and antidote to living in a projectified world, used for organising praxis in contexts of uncertainty. If our climate-changing world is unknowable in advance there is a need to take more responsibility for systemic effects of our actions. The case study shows how this can be done through designing and participating in learning systems that generate effective systems practice.

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