Stafford's Work

post-Conference summary

Metaphorum 2023

Viability through emancipation – or the hidden agenda of viability

post-Conference summary

Our 2023 Metaphorum conference was a vibrant and very well attended event. We had around 70 participants coming from the UK, Australia, Canada, USA, Latin-America and Europe. This year, under Exeter University’s sponsorship, we had a good number of students from the Systems’ Apprenticeship joining the conference and discussing their work applying systems and cybernetics in the UK public sector. We also had a number of MSc and PhD students from different countries presenting their work. It was very welcome seeing a growing interest from a new generation to continue developing Stafford’s legacy.

The balance between applications in businesses, public sector organisation and communities was very interesting. We had presentations from international cybernetic consultants explaining their reflections on VSM developments, and discussing challenges from applications in international corporations, public sector organisations and communities. On Friday evening we enjoyed a vibrant session led by J.C. Mariategui, screening and discussing E.B. Bassam’s new Cybersyn film and its relevance in the 21st Century.

The topic of the conference attracted also a varied mix of scholars and practitioners, using and developing the Viable System Model (VSM) and Team Syntegrity (TS) combined with other systems methodologies (e.g., critical systems thinking). We learnt a lot about different aspects of governance, democracy, the influence and possibilities offered by emergent technologies, inclusivity, emancipation and radical change, learning and cognition, and the traps and challenges of viability and sustainability.

We also enjoyed a good mix of academic presentations and participatory workshops (the agenda on the last day was only participatory workshops), which allowed participants to engage and develop a deeper understanding of the suggested topics. We ended the conference presenting the new vision and strategy for Metaphorum development, and inviting the participants to self-organise around ‘Special Interest Groups’ to continue the conversations in a new platform we will be trialing after the conference. We are now developing a special issue for Systemic Practice and Action Research, including the best papers from the conference.

At the Annual General Meeting we presented the accounts, re-elected the officers, and appointed a Steering Committee with new members who volunteered to contribute to the agreed direction of development for Metaphorum. There are a few proposals for developing next year’s conference, which we will announce in the next few months. We will also soon announce the webinar series for the next semester (September to December 2023).