Monday, July 29, 2013

Systemic approach for emerging societies, Vietnam, 2013

When a year and a half ago the Chairman of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), Alexander Laszlo, invited me to lead the team for designing the programme of the ISSS World Conference, I accepted the task with utter respect and curiosity, without assuming or having a vision where this task would lead us/me. It was a challenging but exceptionally enriching experience, particularly from three key aspects:
1. managing a global project (team members came from all continents),
2. the launch of our new book about the InCo Movement, “The Magic of Contribution”, in Vietnam and
3. an exceptional experience in Vietnam through the people, the projects and the opportunities Vietnam sees for its further development.

Photo: Vietnam the design team
Source: Vibacom

I will address all three points, but let’s first cover the ISSS conference and the core messages that created a space form me to act upon:
  • Systemic thinking and systems science are becoming the mainstream thinking; they give a solid support for the development of a new eco civilisation.
  • Systemic thinking is emerging in the direction of systemic consciousness and the systemic self, with understanding of the significance of an individual as an active and autonomous part of the whole.
  • There is a growing emphasis on intelligent relationships and balance between the collective and the individual, wherein systemic thinking can be very helpful.
  • We are witnessing a shift from planning activities to shaping conditions and environments permitting the birth of the new.
  • Leaders and managers are faced with an important challenge of shifting towards ensuring an environment that permits unpredictability, introduction of elements of surprise and diversity, an environment that permits forming personal views without predefined frameworks of thinking and reasoning (or as now former Chairman of ISSS, A. Laszlo, highlighted in his closing speech, "the contribution of systems sciences to the development of a thrivable planet is not in planting the seeds but in preparing a fertile field to ensure healthy crops”).
  • Our future is in integration, co-creation, understanding our interdependence and active involvement on local and global levels.
The underlying message of the ISSS Conference in Vietnam can be summarized with a single sentence: "Be the system you want to live in." 

Managing a global project

A. The Team: the virtual team I accepted to manage was a rather large one. Initially it even appeared unmanageable. However, after a few Skype sessions, in which we consolidated our expectations, understood the goals with which the team members entered the project, consolidated terminology and clearly defined the project's framework, the work commenced. Today, on the final day of the conference, I can confidently say that that the structure and content of the Conference supported the activities on the floor and allowed a sufficient space for socialising and establishing personal contact, while constantly changing the conference dynamics.
Members of the team: Alexander Laszlo (President of the ISSS), Jacqui Wilmshurst, Pamela Buckle Henning, Barbara Widhalm, Kathryn Bottrell, Todd Johnston, Palma Vizzoni, Karri Winn, Will Varey, Ockie Bosch, Irma Wilson, Violeta Bulc (Coordinator of the Conference Design Team), Nam Nguyen (Coordinator of the Conference Organization & Logistics team), George Por (Coordinator of the Collective Intelligence Enhancement Lab team), Stefan Blachfellner (Coordinator of the External Communication & Coordination team), Jennifer Wilby (Vice President for Administration and the central reference point for the official ISSS activities)
B. Advantages of managing a virtual project: a virtual project can be managed from one's office (or living room sometimes); the time used for meetings is more efficiently spent (after two hours, concentration starts dropping, so meeting usually don't last more than two hours); all notes and comments are recorder live and simultaneously amended and supplemented; if you get too tired or if you have other obligations, you can leave the session quickly.  
Disadvantages of a virtual project: participants' concentration is more difficult to maintain (in order to improve the efficiency of telecommunication lines we often turned off video and one could feel that the members were performing additional work on their computers, which affected their focus on the discussed topics); entering and exiting teamwork sessions was a matter of a single click, which was problematic at times (lesser discipline); there is no direct personal contact (no direct flow of energies), which affects the level of spontaneity and creativity. Challenges of leading a global team: big time differences and consequent problems with scheduling meetings (e.g. late night in Slovenia and South Africa, early morning in Australia, middle of the working day on the west coast of the USA); ensuring consistency within the team (attendance, engagements, involvement), coordinating all the comments and contributions of the virtual team members, sensing the team atmosphere and being able to intervene when the discussion ventures too far off the topic or becomes too time consuming, etc.
More about the conference:
Local news:
C. Innovative achievements: I found it very encouraging that in spite of the comments above related to the management of global projects, we were still able to find innovative solutions, break through patterns of behaviour and understandings. We genuinely had fun while working. It needs to be said however that an initial meeting of six team members in Linz in the spring of 2012 significantly contributed to the process, because we have a very clear basic directions and points of references for our teamwork. The key innovative contributions to the Conference in Vietnam (compared to the previous ISSS conferences) were the following: 1) planetary speakers (systemic scientist from around the globe participated on-line and significantly contributed to the understanding of the development of systemic science and systemic thinking in different parts of the world);
2) first-hand experience of a living laboratory on the island of Cat Ba (with systemic approaches where the entire economic and social development was restructured for the good of its inhabitants, tourism and natural environment protection)

Photo: Island Kat Ba
Source: Vibacom
3) participatory approach for defining the leverage points of  the emerging eco civilisation and capturing the key challenges of its formation;
4) the structure of the programme (several morning and evening activities aimed at participants' reflection, exchange of experience within smaller interest groups, contextual daily focus topics, etc.);
5) the process of shaping the programme of the Conference (evolutionary, participative, co-creative approaches);
6) additional important innovative activities were developed around a creation of a virtual IT support tool for participative integration and cooperation (CIEL – collective intelligence evolutionary lab);
7) another new event was the parallel competition of students from Vietnam and Australia in a virtual game – Ecopolicy.

Launching “The Magic of Contribution” book published at the 7th anniversary of the InCo Movement

Launching a book at a global level, with a 30-minute presentation at the global ISSS conference and with praise from the audience, was an exceptional experience. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the book and everyone who open-heartedly accepted its key messages:

Photo: Launch of the book, Vietnam
Source: Vibacom

Photo: Front page of the e-book
Source: Vibacom

The Vietnam Experience

I felt a composed excitement when I was preparing for my trip to Vietnam. I knew I was setting off towards an important experience in a country I knew little about. However, at the same time I felt that I was going towards a familiar vibration. Now I know why.

Photo: Violeta Bulc, Island Kat Ba
Source: Vibacom
The experience was unforgettable. Exceptionally kind and delightful people. Very professional participants with expert knowledge. A nation of over 80 million people quickly developing in the direction of its virtually unlimited potential – natural and human potential, the country’s ambitions, history and future.

It is a country of scooters, but it is also a country of high sensitivity to interconnectedness and interdependence, yet simultaneously increasingly open to individuality. The mix of socialist spirit, which gave me a sense of familiarity, and their sincere desire to place their country shoulder to shoulder to China, Indonesia, India and other important regional players in the development of Asian economy, create an impulse of the new age and hope, and create an environment for development of multitude of technological, business and social innovations.

In terms of tourism, Hai Phong has not reached its full potentials; however, it is already a strong economic and political centre of Vietnam. It also has rich cultural heritage. The inhabitants, unaccustomed to tourists, are curious but non intrusive. Walking in the hustle of streets overflow with scooters, pedestrians, cars and cyclists and feeling safe and welcome were truly a delightful experience.

Photo: Buddhist center
Source: Vibacom

Photo: TK wiring
(it is difficult to believe that high-speed communication
 is possible with such installations – but it is!)
Source: Vibacom
From the aspect of our project, it was quite refreshing to learn that the highest political leaders were so open and respectful towards a system thinking and system science. They use it very successfully for restructuring their economy and society as a whole. A significant role in this has been played by prof. Ockie Bosch and dr.Nam Nguyen from the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Photo: Hai Phong leadership
(the establishment of the International
Association for systemic science in Hai Phongu)
Source: Vibacom

Photo: V. Bulc, Mr.Thanh, a member of the
Committee of the Republic of Vietnam and the party secretary
Source: Vibacom

In general, the streets of Hai Phong where we spent a week are like a giant anthill – people, trade, restaurants, animals and the weather socialise and cohabitate. They together create a great example of emerging conditions for development of sustainable innovation ecosystems.

Photo: Pulse of the Market
Source: Vibacom

Photo: Selling fruit at The Market
Source: Vibacom

Vietnam is a destination I would certainly recommend.

All the best, Violeta

Additional links:
How can we cooperate
Where we can meet global

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