Tag Archives: Inquiring Systems

Imagining Future Urban Challenges: A Dialogic Design Workshop

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A Collaborative Foresight Workshop for Imagining Urbanization Challenges

In late August, OCADU’s Strategic Innovation Lab engaged 18 academics and thought leaders from around Ontario in an intensive one-day panel on Imagining Canada’s Future, to formulate a short list of distinct future challenges that SSHRC should address through future research programs. The panel research continues with an OCADU-led research team involving York, Ryerson, Windsor and UOIT in developing the findings and report.

Affording an opportunity for public knowledge mobilization, the question DwD with an open panel of innovators and students in the DwD and university communities.

The framing of the panel was centred around the question:

“As Southern Ontario faces the effects of global urbanization, what are the highest priority social and systemic challenges, now through 2030?”

To further develop a public inquiry into the same question, a community design workshop was held on this important foresight perspective.  What are the opportunities and possible outcomes for a design-led approach to social sciences challenges?  With over 20 creative and professional participants, the session rapidly engaged (and experimented with) variations of dialogic design methods for problem framing and collective sensemaking in the “open sandbox” of the DwD community:

  • Framing of the Triggering Question
  • Generating Challenges – Individual, Paired, and Round Robin
  • Concurrent Clarification of Challenges
  • Voting on Challenges
  • Challenges Selection – Group Scenario Creation

A single visual map of the workshop goals, activities and scenarios was sketched in concert by Charlotte Young and regular Patricia Kambitsch.

To preserve time, only one well-defined challenge per participant was selected.

Four breakout groups composed scenarios from selected challenges, assembling both a set of related problems from challenges and the proposed solutions.

Scenarios were designed to highlight salience of relationships over a 20 year timeline, with guidance to show Milestones, Headlines, and Solutions.

The Open Equitable Diverse society showed the  transformation of government and citizen engagement, from top-down governance to bottom-up “poll” or pull governance. The concept of a Social GPS was proposed as an advanced global social network enabling this transition.

Socially engaged ownership and new systems of urban design, resource management, equitable housing arrangements and neighbourhood communities was envisioned.

A combination of challenges in a problematic network was envisioned being addressed by a positive scenario involving social health, participatory engagement,education services and considering the renewal of the family as a unit of planning.

Two diverse society scenarios were developed. The Feeling Canadian scenario expressed the possible scenarios of a deeply values-centred view of a socially-designed approach to enhancing diversity and while managing urbanization pressures, considering the impacts of city governance, neighbourhood management, and the preservation of Canadian history. Mediators of good government, an educational mandate, and community engagement were proposed.


Another team constructed a classical 2×2 matrix defining four quadrants against the problems of food security and income inequality led to a timeline and solution focus on the quadrant of significant income inequality and managed local food sources. This may be seen as a “highly likely” scenario approach inspiring immediate social action to address probable effects, rather than farsighted solutions.

We started the workshop with a presentation of the dialogic design approach and an overview of the SSH-sponsored panel from the Imagining Canada’s Future project.


Peter Jones, DwD Community Convener and OCADU professor is guiding the workshop and the trial of experimental approaches (visual, technical) to complement the dialogic design method. The session was co-convened with the team of Strategic Foresight and Innovation graduate student Uma Maharaj and visual recording from Charlotte Young and Patricia Kambitsch.





The Meta-Design of Dialogues as Inquiring Systems

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About 30 participants attended the first DwD of 2012 (Jan 11). This educational session explored the relationship of systems inquiry to dialogue. Small groups facilitated their own learning to identify knowledge profiles and to design dialogic inquiries that would best address a selected area of concern.

There’s a multitude of ways to conduct dialogues.  Which approach will be most appropriate for attaining desired outcomes among different groups?  This DwD engaged systems thinking for some foundations, with an overview of C. West Churchman’s design of inquiring systems.  With these foundations, participants (dialogue designers) sharpened their appreciation of alternative modes and techniques.  More open dialogic approaches might (or might not) be preferred over more bounded and structured approaches, under different conditions.  Theory was translated into reflective practice through group exercises. The session started by generating a range of concerns and ideas for inquiry. These were selected by groups for further

About the Convener

David Ing is president (2011-2012) of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, an organization with members with interests crossing disciplinary boundaries (e.g. social systems, technological systems, biological systems, ecological systems).  In that role, he is designing the program for the ISSS annual meeting (in San Jose, CA in July 2012), and working with the Systems Science Working Group of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE).  Over the past year, he developed new courses in systems thinking for the Master’s in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University in Finland.  He is a visiting fellow with University of Hull (UK), an itinerant scholar with the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and previously a cofounder of the Canadian Centre for Marketing Information Technologies (C2MIT) at the University of Toronto.  David has had a continuous 27-year career with IBM, with home base in Toronto.  He can be found on the Internet at http://coevolving.com

A Question of Questions

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Can a powerful question change the world? Why do some questions motivate people to deeply reflect and act?

The creation and sharing of a catalyzing question is a generative act, it creates a point of view. Such a true question provokes a deep response and outlook. Great questions are the inspiration of research, journalism, strategy, and our imagining of alternative futures.

September’s DwD session inquired into the “question of questions.”  We practice different methods and arts of the question, and explore the impact of powerful questions in dialogue.

We can see this principle in action around us. Companies, innovations, and social movements can start with a leader’s question that inspires others to get involved. People living in a question invite us to answer that question with action.

Such is the pull of the powerful question.

The session presented three challenges to participants:

1. The Question Game – Conduct three conversations entirely in questions.

2. Inquiry into: What is the process and practice of asking questions?

Based on asking the following three questions:

  • What is the function of a question?
  • What is the effect of a question on the person being asked?
  • What kinds of questions have “potential” or the potency to open experience?

The comprehensive dialogue sketch was composed throughout the evening by Patricia Kambitsch, Playthink.

3. How might your questions shape an intentional future?

Writing and sharing powerful questions, which appeared on the board as:

Participation was engaged by a group of 30, at least half of whom were new to DwD. We appreciate the energized attendance!

ABOUT THE HOST. DwD co-founder Peter Jones teaches in the Strategic Foresight and Innovation graduate MDes program at OCADU. Peter founded Redesign, an innovation research company based in Toronto that conducts ethnographic research and concept design for early stage innovations and services.