What Happens When Researchers and Practitioners Connect to Advance Social Good in a Complex World?
Plexus Institute is all too familiar with the failure of social policies because outdated linear approaches are used to manage disruptive, emergent processes. The result can lead to institutional disarray and failure with direct consequences on the lives of individuals and their communities.
When: April 15-17, 2019 Where: Washington, DC
The conference is cross-disciplinary and brings together researchers, practitioners, and funders to explore the application of insights from the study of complex systems to public policy with a special emphasis on social good. The conference gives practitioners and researchers the opportunity to learn from each other, explore collaborations, and hear from funders about the most promising ways to fund their projects.
Aiming to build on insights from the study of complex systems participants can share their experiences and insights, discuss their views, reflect on their cognitive constructs, and conceive of joint projects. The conference hopes to advance social good and does not shy away from asking fundamental questions, such as:
- How can we use our emerging understanding of complexity, human action, and dynamic social systems to the benefit of human societies and populations?
- How can knowing more about the complexity that shapes our personal relations, collective action, and the sustainability of social institutions lead to healthier lives and increased well-being?
A complex systems perspective offers a path by which policies may become better able to engage with and address the transformations and crises of the complex world. By transcending an Enlightenment heritage that revolves around concepts like predictability, universality, linearity and reducibility, and embracing notions of unpredictability, context, non-linearity and emergence it opens up fresh vistas on human life. Human life appears as ever-evolving, embedded in a socio-ecological niches, and filled with social interactions. System-wide patterns and trends that arise from interlinkages come into focus. These vistas should allow a clearer view of current developments and the formation of more effective organizations. Common features of the new vistas are the following:
- social systems are complex adaptive systems
- social systems are embedded in specific socio-ecological environments
- socio-ecological environments are the result of a long, historic processes
- invisible system variables such as values and beliefs strongly affect outcomes
- change in social systems results from ongoing interactions between multiple variables
- interactions between system variables are mostly non‐linear
- straight causal relations are not sufficient to understand social change as effects are non-linear and largely unpredictable