2023 Kruger National Park

ISSS 2023 Conference in Kruger National Park.
17-23 June 2023, Kruger National Park, South Africa
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Theme: Systems Practice for Professions
The ISSS is providing a unique annual meeting experience in June 2023. The main conference takes place from June 19 -23 in the Kruger National Park in South Africa.  The conference will provide an opportunity for networking and scholarship for systems practitioners and academics in the midst of a complex social and natural ecosystem. 
17-19 June,  there will a number of informal meetings and a writing retreat;
19-23 June: Main Conference;
17-23 June: Systems Thinking in Practice Workshop for PhD students and Professional with Pre-conference full-day sessions and dedicated sessions during the Main Conference.
LATEST NEWS : Updated 6 May 2023
We have just about 100 participants for the conference with another 20 guests. The excitement is building by the day now.
The planning phase of the conference is completed, and we are all now in the execution phase. For those attending please note the following:
  • Keynote speaker abstracts updated on 6/6/2023
  • Please complete the Google form with your passport information. If you have not received the mail, please send email to roelien.goede@gmail.com
  • Please submit your abstract on the Journal system.
  • We also sent you an email with a last minute checklist.
  • Join the SIGNAL groups - Links were e-mailed.
  • Please read detail at the bottom of this page on the conference research project.
  • You need to investigate Malaria precaution medication now
  • We will meet people arriving at Skukuza Airport and provide transfer to the Skukuza Lodge, and back to the airport upon departure.
  • Those arriving by car must please check the gate times on the Kruger National Park website. Being winter, the gates close early and no entry or exit is possible after closing time.
  • Also, a reminder that a daily conservation fee is payable by persons for days not registered for the conference. This is payable on arrival.
  • We hope to finalise our programme this week, for you to plan your stay in the Kruger Park in terms of game drives and walks.
  • The weather in the Kruger Park is mostly mild winter days. However, the game drives will have a strong wind chill factor and you are advised to bring a warm wind proof jacket and scarf. We would rather you remember these drives for the amazing animal sightings than for the wind and cold!
  • Please remember to activate your bank cards for international use prior to your departure. Also remember that Skukuza has limited facilities, so plan to use your stopover in Johannesburg for other services such as mobile phone services.
  • If you require a receipt for payments, please contact me (conferences@isss.org). 
  • There is a note about conference paper submissions in the Important Dates area.
Most of all, remember this is a bucket-list experience, both in terms of the conference experience and venue. Your presence enhances the experience for everyone! Come with an open mind ready to experience Africa, with all its vibrancy and imperfection. From the moment you step into the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg you are in Africa! Africa is vibrant; African people mirror your attitude (smile and greet and you will see what I mean); Africans accept and expect that not all things are perfect. Joy is independent from suffering. Come and embrace Africa with patience and an attitude of service to others.
I can’t wait to see you in Skukuza!
Welcoming notes
Prof Roelien Goede (President 2022-2023) Dr Olaf Brugman (Vice-President) Conferences
We invite you to come to the Kruger Park to be part of an experience of a life-time. Experience the situatedness of the venue under the African skies. The conference venue enables many Africans to attend, thereby widening the footprint of our society and affording us to learn from each other. 
Stories of our systems practice will showcase the impact we have as systems practitioners. We also reflect on our discipline as a profession. Our workshops provide a diversity of experience and future planning of the ISSS.
The weeklong Systems Thinking in Practice Workshop provides a unique opportunity to develop your skills.
Another unique experience is our research project on reflection during our conference. 
Science-based knowledge of systems is one of the keys to robust application in various professions. I am excited that ISSS will bring experts in systems knowledge and systems practice together to inspire each other and to make each other better. Also, ISSS is fulfilling its promise to build a bridge to African scholars and practitioners and extend our mutual networks. Let’s act together in a way that provides us with more knowledge and options for action than we had before.
PAPERS IN PROGRAMME : PROGRAMME UPDATED 6/3/2023. Please send comments to conference@isss.org
Following is a list of papers to appear in the programme. Included in the list is the session number, name of presenter (alphabetically), and the track (abbreviation description below).  
  • 3B: Argall, N, Organization Engineering: A language in progress Track: SMSE
  • 3A: Barnes, L, Approaching the Blood Transfusion Continuum as a System: Action Research to foster the emergence of voluntary blood donation Track: HST
  • 4C: Buckle, P, Reflection on Systems Guilt from the Perspective of Analytical Psychology Track: SACD
  • 5A: Bunnel, P, Language as an Enabling Constraint in Systems Sciences Track: CYB
  • 2E: Campher, S, Systems thinking for intelligent data warehousing – designing and modelling for the future Track: DPSS
  • 5C: Clifford-Holmes, J, Multi-dimensional analysis of the conflicts over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Track: SESD
  • 1C: Clifford-Holmes, J, A systemic analysis of participatory land and water governance in the Tsitsa river catchment, South Africa Track: SESD
  • 1A: Cloete, D, Co-creating anticipatory heuristics and becoming praxis: A Provisional framework for systems practitioners Track: CSTP
  • 3D: Coetzee, M, Connect to be the future: a critical systems approach to conference organisation Track: CSTP
  • 1B: Cook, P, Physics and Beyond Track: HS
  • 2C: Cotet, C, From Chaos to Control: A Scoping Review of Cybernetics and System Thinking as Enablers for Rail Infrastructure Resilience Track: CYB
  • 1D: Cottam, R (1), Multilevel Information Structures Track: OTSC
  • 3C: Cottam, R (2), Multilevel Physical Structures and Stable Disequilibrium Systems Track: GSML
  • 3E: Dostal, E (1), W/Holistic Participatory Democracy Track: OTSC
  • 1B: Dostal, E (2), There are systems and systems.... Track: RGTS
  • 5B: Drevin, G; Snyman, D, Reflections on the information technology honours program using a systems approach Track: DES
  • 3D: Drevin, L, Being human in an IT environment Track: CSTP
  • 4D: Fischer, T, Feedback, Closure, Eigenbehavior and Analog Computing Track: CYB
  • SP 4C: Friend, A (1), Prologue: Introduction to SAGE-P GDP as a Measure of Entropy Production of the Nation-State Track: GSML
  • SP 4C: Friend, A (2), GDP as a Measure of Entropy Production of the Nation-State Track: SESD
  • 1C: Gabriele, S, Systemocracy: Transcending Bureaucracy via the 30/30 RoundTable Track: DES
  • 3B: Gardiner, L, Attending Responding Becoming: the fruits of a living learning inquiry Track: SIEL
  • 5B: Goede, H, Towards an integration of different perspectives in strategic planning: a critical systems heuristics approach  Track: OTSC
  • 2B: Hay, A, A PAR approach to environmental justice competencies and systems thinking in pre-service teacher education Track: DEI
  • 2E: Idris, M, What is the impact of Feminist Narrative Research (FNR) on Participatory Systems Mapping (PSM) practitioner reflexivity within a health policy context for more meaningful engagement? Track: DEI
  • SP 3A: Ison, R, Governing river catchment governing: the case of the Olifants, South Africa Track: SCA
  • 2C: Katual, D, Game-based learning to improve critical thinking and knowledge sharing Track: CSTP
  • 4E: Keykaan, D, Digital phrenology: Algorithms and ethics from a systems perspective Track: RHT
  • P1: Kineman, J, Sacred topology of wholeness Track: RS
  • 2C: Laouris, Y (1), The role of systems science and cybernetics in transforming contemporary governance Track: CYB
  • 3C: Laouris, Y (2), A critical discussion regarding the feasibility of rendering Structured Democratic Dialogue virtual  Track: OTSC
  • SP 3B: Leonard, Al, EcoAffiliates: a Viable System Model Interactive Cast Study Track: OTSC
  • P1: Leonard, Ar, A Viable Systems Application for Improving Climate Adaptability in Kruger National Park Track: SCA
  • 1E: Love, T (1), Why participatory systems methods fail and are inappropriate for complex system problems: The 2 Feedback Loop Axiom Track: SMSE
  • 4C: Love, T (2), Variety Dynamics: A new body of systems methods and theories for ownership and control of  complex and hyper complex systems and their  outcomes Track: SACD
  • 2E: Ludikhuijze, H, Literature and Social Change – Pedagogies of (Re)Orientation in Voluntourism Reading Groups through uMunthu in Rural Malawi Track: SCA
  • 5D: MacGill, V, Spolier Alert: The Wizard of Oz is a Fraud Systemic Musings on the Nature of Self Track: BIC
  • 1C: Malele, V, System Thinking meets Data Science/Engineering  Track: DES
  • 1A: Manduna, WM (1), Social justice to learning computer programming: A critical systems thinking approach in computing education at a university Track: CSTP
  • 5C: Manduna, WM (2), The do’s of learning programming: a critical review of the suitable assessment strategies for the programming students Track: DES
  • 2B: McCulloch, L, How might a systems approach invite the change or hope “it” wishes to see? A story of an action research journey so far to advance the “system” with mothers in addiction recovery in Ireland Track: DEI
  • 5D: McIntyre, J (1), Story telling to foster emotional intelligence , leadership and multispecies relationships  Track: BIC
  • 5D: McIntyre, J (2), A gender sensitive approach to uniting indigenous views on natural law with relational governance for protecting the commons Track: BIC
  • 4E: Metcalf, G (1), Sciencing and philosophizing on threads in systems thinking:  tracing through the texture of the socio-technical and socio-ecological perspectives Track: RHT
  • 3C: Metcalf, G (2), Industry / Society 5.0: Moving from transhumanist to posthumanist technologies Track: RHT
  • 2B: Montero, A, An Autoethnography of my Nomadic Journey with Western and Indigenous Knowledges: From Social Constructionism to Systems Thinking in Leadership Track: DEI
  • 4D: Muller, J, The Application of FMA to Automation Research Track: AR
  • 5A: Nagraj, S, Solving ‘wicked’ problems in global health using systems science Track: HST
  • 5C: Nshimba, C, Data Privacy in Smart Homes, A Critical Systems Thinking Perspective Track: CSTP
  • 1D: O'Donnell, J (1), Implementation and Systems sciences: What happens when two sciences collide Track: OTSC
  • 3A: O'Donnell, J (2), Designing safe virtual spaces as part of mainstream disability services using the Viable Systems Model Track: HST
  • 1A: Peterson, S, Seeing the nose on your face: Reflective practice for professionals Track: CSTP
  • SP 1B: Pinsker, E, Systems Thinking, Systemic Change and Equity in Public Health Practice: A Dialogue Track: HST
  • 2A: Pinzon-Salcedo, LA, Amazonian Perspectivism: Enriching systems thinking by leveraging contributions from indigenous Amerindians Track: CSTP
  • 3B: Potts, M, Promoting systemic change in our educational institutions through metacompetencies that develop transformative qualities of Being and agency Track: DES
  • 5B: Preiser, R, Interacting across difference: exploring capacities for making sense of diversity and change Track: DEI
  • SP 1A: Rajagopalan, R, Systemic consciousness: new horizon for systems practice Track: Semi plenary
  • 2A: Reynolds, M , Professionalising systems thinking in practice: what’s not to celebrate? Track: EP
  • 1E: Roberts, R, Using Systems dynamics to understand the impacts of community renewable energy projects in New Zealand Track: SMSE
  • 3A: Scribante, J, The Development of a Framework for Improvement of Intensive Care Delivery in South Africa: A Systemic Intervention Track: HST
  • 4C: Smit, I, The contribution of Churchman's charactiristics to “diagnosis”, first step of a 5-step Action Research process Track: AR
  • 3E: Smith, W, Quiet Revolution: A Lifelong Perspective on Systems Capped by the Discovery of Stem-Systems Track: SIEL
  • 2D: Swartz, J , A Philosophy of Systems Futures: Transdisciplinary Cooperations Track: SPhil
  • 2D: Sweeting, RB, Architecture, Ecology, and Hubris Track: SESD
  • 3D: Tuddenham, P, Interconnected Earth: Advancing Systems Literacy through Systems Process Theory, and Conversation Theory, and AI-Enhanced Collaboration Track: HIS
  • 5A: Van der Westhuizen, L, Exploring the Transformative Power of Visual Art: A Practitioner-Researcher's Journey towards Self-Reflection and Epistemology of Practice in Physical Science Education Track: EP
  • 1D: Williams, B, Applying the ‘Extended Dynamic Sustainability’ framing to understand sustainability of education intervention outcomes Track: OTSC
  • 3E: Winn, K, Using Emergent Knowledge to Explore Common Perceptions of Well-Being Track: SSSS
SIG's and Tracks (abbreviations)
AR: Action Research
BIC: Balancing Individualism and Collectivism
SACD: Systemic Approaches to Crises and Disasters
CSTP: Critical Systems Theory and Practice
DES: Designing Educational Systems
DPSS: Digital Product-Service Systems (IS and ICT)
DEI: Diversity Equity Inclusion
GSML: General Systems Mathematics and Languaging
HST: Health and Systems Thinking
HS: Holistic Systems
HSI: Human Systems Inquiry
SIEL: Systemic Innovation, Engagement, and Leadership 
OTSC: Organisational Transformation and Social Change
RGTS: Research towards General Theories of Systems
SSSS: Science, Spirituality and Systems Science
SESD: Socio-Ecological Systems & Design
SABI: Systems Applications in Business and Industry
SMSE: Systems Modelling and Systems Engineering
SPhil: Systems Philosophy
Track: CYB: Cybernetics and Systems 
Track: Systems Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Track: SCA: Systems Change in Africa
Track: EP: The Embodied Professional: systemic beings in motion
Track: RHT: Reintegrating Humans and Technologies: Industry 5.0
  • Workshop: Clifford-Holmes, J, Participatory workshop on a Typology of Systems Diagramming Techniques; Workshop Facilitators (Detail)
  • Workshop: Scholte, T, Pereptual conflict management: A Cyber-Systemic Approach to Conflict Egagement Across the Professions (Detail)
  • Workshop: Laouris, Y, Towards improving the visibility, impact, and societal contributions of ISSS. This is a continuation of the the APRIL / MAY sessions on working towards synergy of methodologies. More detail in March newsletter.
  • Workshop: Argall, N, Organization Engineering in practice: Designing a paradigm for Systems Science Track: SMSE (Detail)
  • Workshop: Gardiner, L, Radical inclusion! The key to unlocking generative potential and systemic transformation Track: SIEL (Detail)
  • Workshop: Smith, W, Friend, M, The Shift to the Fifth (Detail)
  • Workshop: Wagner, A, Trauma and Democracy - Exploring the narrative landscape and sensemaking of 350 people in Germany in relation to current crisis and polarization Track: SACD (Detail)
  • Panel: Distributive Indigenous Leadership:  seeding agroecology and praxis  to protect multiple species (Detail
  • Panel: Embodied systems practice: Tom Scholte, Raghav Rajagopalan, Rachel Liley and Joan O'Donnell (Detail)
  • Semi-plenary: Pinsker, E, Systems Thinking, Systemic Change and Equity in Public Health Practice: A Dialogue Track: HST (Detail)
Detail of the keynote speakers will be provided here as detail emerges.  The following scholars has been confirmed as keynote speakers:
Social entrepreneurship learning ecosystems, let us also include the forgotten spaces: An invitation
Prof Vhonani Olive Netshandama
South African Higher Education institution are under pressure to adapt to various sustainability and transformation challenges, amongst other to counter challenges posed by unemployment, hunger and the vulnerabilities associated with climate change and pandemics.  Organisations such as Universities South Africa (USAf), Technological Higher Education Network of South Africa (THENSA), Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) are at the forefront of driving and promoting entrepreneurship education. Traditionally, entrepreneurship education was expected and canvassed as a function of business schools. Also, it goes without saying that fewer educators are not equipped to be entrepreneurial in the traditional sense, but require some level of entrepreneurial awareness in order to radiate the adaptive energy to students, colleagues and community members. The forgotten non traditional intergenerational learning ecosystems exist inrural areas. In this auto ethonographic presentation, I will make reference to the University of Venda, as it grapples with the integration of the third entrepreneurial mission, namely engagement, relevance and socio-economic impact, with limited resources, and historical debts. I will share lived experiences and social entrepreneurial ecosystems (SEE) embedded in local leadership, territoriality and commitments, and how a University engaged research team might serve as an anchor and conduit to sustaibable livelihoods, whilst at the same time exposing students to relatable entrepreneurial experiences.  Intentional focus on appreciating adaptive capabilities, frugal innovative and in providing relevant entrepreneurial learning experiences is key for lifelong learning and sustainability. I will argue that whilst exploiting external opportunities, rather than promoting local leadership is justifiable in one way, in another way it is disemporing and pereperutating colonial ways of learning, exclusivity and inequality, which is 
unsustainable and tend to fuel ‘the tick box syndrome’, with less tangible returns on investments. This is also an invitation to collaborate within the “forgotten co-learning spaces”. 
Professor Vhonani Olive Netshandama has over 10 years’ experience as a Director for Community Engagement at the University of Venda. She holds a PhD in Nursing Education from the University of Johannesburg. She is the 2016 distinguished women in science, awarded by the Department of Science and Innovation. For over 2 decades, Professor Netshandama has been a lead partner of Sustainable learning environments and other related projects in Education, IKS and Public Health.  A decolonial community based participatory researcher with an interest in engaged scholarship, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), as well as social entrepreneurship learning, research, and innovation, she is active in transdisciplinary post graduate supervision where she insists on innovative impactful participatory design research. Vhonani an experienced multiple stakeholder facilitator of co-learning and reflective processes. She has mentored hundreds of students doing community-based work at both undergraduate and post graduate levels.  An MiT Innovation leadership bootcamp alumnus, Vhonani has recently launched a collaborative short Social Entrepreneurship course for students, unemployed graduates and communities.  
Ubuntu in Health Promotion
Prof Rachel Tsakani Lebese 
Ubuntu is an African philosophy that describes how human beings can live with each other. Ubuntu is the essence of a human being, the divine spark of goodness inherent within each being. It also promotes interdependence on each other. We live on earth, and we are dependent on the habitat, air, water, animals, and the environment which also influence our health status including health prevention and promotive measures. 
This paper will describe how Ubuntu as an African philosophy can be used as a health-promoting vehicle. 
The study involves a participatory action research design that triangulated both approaches and used varying data collection and analysis methods. Methods to ensure trustworthiness, ethics, validity, and reliability were applied.
The results show how information can be disseminated within communities from one source to the other through the available community connections. This can be achieved by the development of indigenous songs, role-play, and speeches. Indigenous preventive methods and available resources from our own environment are key to health promotion strategies Workshops are central in the application of Ubuntu values and principles hence important in the transmission of health-related information within communities.
Professor Rachel Tsakani Lebese is a Research Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Venda.  She is a licensed nurse. Her PhD was on the development of ‘A model to promote dialogue about sexual health between teenagers and parents/teachers in Limpopo Province, South Africa’.  Her research interest is rooted around culture, Ubuntu, sexual and reproductive health, applying community-engaged participatory rural appraisal to address problems identified together with the community. She has led to the completion of several research projects such as breast self-examination, the implementation of a model to promote dialogue between teenagers and parents.
Prof Lebese has over 2 decades of experience in Community Based Nursing Education. She taught undergraduate students, by applying a problem-based community-centred project-organized curriculum. The same engagement is also used for research in trying to revive Ubuntu among communities. Prof Lebese is involved in hospital boards, Ubuntu community movement, and youth ubuntu boot camps, using theatre approaches. To date, she has supervised to completion of 14 master’s and 11 PhD candidates and has published 85 articles in accredited journals.
Ubuntu’s basis is that taking care of ourselves (human beings) interacting with other human beings, and nature, or the Creator, is to be mindful of our responsibilities towards one another, and towards sustained livelihood.  Her scholarly movement is about community Ubuntu, in which she maps the ubuntu ecosystem in Health Promotion.   Prof Lebese is a fellow of the Albertina Sisulu SARCHi in Nursing Science.  Her community-based work covers Thalamela and Greater Giyani Municipality, least 6 communities, namely Nweli, Malavuwe, Mbahe, hlaneki, Ngove and Sikhunyani.  This is an interfaculty-inter-institutional, participatory, transdisciplinary multistakeholder project involving advancing co-creation of knowledge practices that should promote health and healing through the application of ubuntu principles.  Professor Lebese’s presentation will focus on how ubuntu’s philosophy is being revived through the scholarship of community engagement.
An African perspective on leadership and future leaders
Sammy Njenga
This keynote address will seek to tell the story of a systems thinking practitioner from an African perspective. The speaker who is working in the field of leadership development is wrestling with questions of the silence of an African voice within the field of systems thinking approaches. A simple online search reveals a lack of material and publications on the application of systems thinking approaches that are written with the continent in mind and that take African philosophies and worldviews seriously.  Furthermore, questions continue to be raised about the lack of relevance of many leadership and development programs available at African business schools. It seems that the quest for international standardization and accreditation may be driving the perceived lack of contextual relevance. Yet, the challenges that we face as a continent and specifically within the field of leadership development defy simplistic linear solutions. It is for such messy situations that systems thinking approaches are best suited. The address will seek to position African philosophies like Ubuntu and Ukama as useful contributors to the understanding of systems thinking and the practice of leadership development. Both Ubuntu and Ukama are founded on the understanding and practice of interdependence, relationality, and communitarian living. Importantly, the discussion will seek to showcase some of the practices within traditional Africa like storytelling as well as the use of metaphors, and how they can be powerful tools for systems thinking practitioners. The session will also explore the power of the right question in guiding systemic inquiry and awareness.
Samuel (Sammy) Njenga is a Kenyan national living in South Africa.
He is a leadership and management consultant involved in areas of leadership development, change management, organisational viability, strategic alignment and organisational transformation. His interests include African perspectives on systemicity as well as how to promote workplace learning. Sammy leads Systems Thinking Africa (STA), an organisation which facilitates transformative conversations inspired by Africa philosophies (including Ubuntu, Utu and Ukama) in order to support systems practitioners in addressing complex and messy challenges. Systems Thinking Africa recently launched STA NextGen- a youth-led initiative to teach and support young people in understanding and applying systems thinking approaches to the complex issues they face. 
In seeking to build its body of research and academic base, Systems Thinking Africa also partners with other systems practitioners including Dr. Martin Reynolds of the Open University, UK. 
Sammy is a senior faculty at the Henley Business School Africa where he facilitates on a number of management development programmes.
Sammy also lectures at the University of Stellenbosch Business school as well as the University of the Free State Business School. He is a student of Systems theory and Practice and has a Bachelor’s of Education (Hons), an MA in Organisational Leadership, a Master of Commerce in Organisational Management and Systems, and is currently doing a PhD through the University of the Free State Business School. He is using systems thinking approaches to look at short learning programmes in business schools and their relevance to learning in the workplace.
Sammy will be giving a keynote address on “An African perspective on leadership and future leaders”. 
The leadership imperative and cultivating it
Suja Joseph-Malherbe
In the field of engineering, cultivating leadership skills is recognized to be as valuable as developing technical expertise. This holds true for systems engineers at present, and even more so in the future, as the intricacy of engineering challenges increases [INCOSE SE 2035 Vision].
Leadership is a subject that has been studied widely, leading to a multitude of definitions. As a social phenomenon, there is no consensus on what precisely constitutes leadership. In many organizations, leadership is commonly associated with rank and reporting lines. The individuals have formal authority over the people he or she needs cooperation from to achieve specific outcomes. As a systems engineer, a significant aspect of the role involves influencing people without relying on formal authority.
In my address, I explore the leadership imperative and I delve into learning journeys for systems engineers to become more effective at influencing others, even in the absence of formal authority.
Suja has a passion for leadership and systems engineering and as such she is quite active in INCOSE. She is a coach at INCOSE Technical Leadership Institute since December 2020. She was a member of the INCOSE International board of directors, as Chair of the Policy Management Committee from July 2014 to December 2016. She served as the President of INCOSE South Africa from January 2017 to December 2018.
Suja provides training and consulting services in systems engineering and leadership development to individuals and organisations through Letter27. She is also a sessional lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of the Witwatersrand delivering post-graduate courses on systems engineering.
Prior to joining Letter27, she was a course presenter at Certification Training International. She was a senior systems engineer with Garmin Stellenbosch, creating first-of-its-kind outdoor and fitness products. She led the management of software releases, including the testing, deployment, and support of new software. Her experience also includes substantial modelling and simulation, image processing, and the development of technology systems, such as battery packs for the dismounted soldier. This latter work was performed at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for the defense industry in South Africa.
She is an INCOSE Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) and a Solution-focused Brief Coach (ICF-ACSTHs training). She received her B.Sc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand and her M.Eng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Johannesburg. 
Professionalising the Systems Thinking Practitioner
prof Ray Ison
Drawing on over 50 years of educating systems thinking practitioners at the Open University (OU) UK, this Keynote will highlight the opportunities and threats that arise in a journey towards professionalisation of systems thinking in practice (STiP).  The case of working with alumni and employers to facilitate the creation of a new professional identity, the Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprentice (STPA) in England, will be used to elucidate issues for academics, professional bodies and employers as well as incipient professionals.  The experience of developing a new module 'Evidencing systems thinking in practice' for the OU's presentation of the new masters level apprenticeship award will be used to highlight some of the conceptual, methodological and ethical issues that will challenge educators.
Prof Ray Ison
Ray Ison was appointed Professor of Systems at the Open University (OU) in 1994. He is a member of the Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) program involved in researching and teaching, particularly team co-authoring and presenting Post-Graduate modules such as 'Managing Change with Systems Thinking in Practice' and 'Evidencing Systems Thinking in Practice'. These are developed and presented within the OUs MSc and Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship awards. He has also led and/or contributed to a range of major research, scholarship and teaching programs and projects as part of the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) Group. His research and scholarship span the biophysical and social and is primarily interdisciplinary, international and collaborative. He is recognised for his work on systems praxeology within rural development, sustainability management, systemic governance and the design and enactment of learning systems, as evidenced in an extensive number of publications. His latest book, co-authored with Ed Straw, ‘The Hidden Power of Systems Thinking. Governance in a Climate Emergency’ was published in 2020. Prof. Ison is the current President (since 2019) of the IFSR (International Federation for Systems Research); he has also served as President of ISSS (International Society for the Systems Sciences) and as a Trustee of the American Society of Cybernetics. In 2022 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award, by the Systems Society of India ‘for contributions to the transformation of society with a systems approach’. 
In the Mirror of Tamkeen: Growing a Shared Understanding of Societal Metamorphosis or The Gardener AND the Garden, Learning to Speak the Language of "AND".
Dr Louis Klein
Karima Kadaoui
For over 14 years, Tamkeen Community Foundation for Human Development and its partners co-facilitate and co-create, the conditions for the emergence of ecosystems of societal harmony and human co-flourishing in Morocco. The direction of this autotelic process is a humanising society. Its manifestations are the witnessing and experience of metamorphic transformation of communities and societal systems (neighbourhoods, schools, university faculties , education system ...). The Tamkeen Approach and the emerged are consubstantial, come to life together, vivify one another and are concrescent. Tamkeen is co-created as it grows the understanding of its understanding by and with all the partners involved and as it mutually arises and evolves with the interplay of emergence and dissolvence. Tamkeen is its own metaprocess and governance model, dissolving the concept-percept dialectic, appreciating action and reflection as indissociable. It embraces and transcends prevalent notions of social innovation and systems change.
Since 2019, Karima Kadaoui and Dr Louis Klein are working together in what became known as a socio-systemic complexity evaluation (SSCE) embedded in research of the Tamkeen Approach, of metamorphic transformation and of the wonder [KK1] that comes with it. In coherence and congruence with the Tamkeen Approach, the SSCE creates the conditions to grow the understanding of the growing shared understanding from co-reflected lived experiences. It is the mirror to the mirror of Tamkeen, it questions the questions into their evolution and the underlying epistemologies and ontologies, it realises the dissolving distinctions, reflects the dilatation of perceptions and resonates with the spoken language that grows with the unfolding Tamkeen experience. The SSCE safely reveals a silent transformation in the flow-field of its growing resonant expanse, societal metamorphosis.
More information:
Beyond the magic – growing our understanding of societal metamorphosis
Appreciating Socio-Systemic Complexity Evaluation
 Dr Louis Klein
Dr Louis Klein
Dr Louis Klein serves as dean at the European School of Governance (EUSG) and Secretary General of the International Federation for Systems Research (ISFR). 
Educated as an economist and social scientist, Dr Louis Klein became a dedicated systems researcher. He served as director at the International Centre for Complex Project Management (ICCPM), as director at the World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics (WOSC), and as VP of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS).
In 2019 Dr Louis Klein retired from the Systemic Excellence Group and the Systemic Change Institute where he managed change projects worldwide as a systems practitioner. He worked in the private and public field as well as for organisations in civil society.
Dr Louis Klein is member of the editorial board of the Project Management Journal (PMJ) and Systems Research and Behavioural Sciences (SRBS) as well as co-publisher of the German philosophical business magazine agora42.
Karima Kadaou  
Karima Kadaoui, Co-Founder and Executive President of Tamkeen Community Foundation for Human Development, Morocco
I co-founded Tamkeen Community Foundation for Human Development in 2009 and currently hold the responsibility of its executive presidency. However, my Tamkeen process story started before, with the lived experience research with Tamkeen co-founding colleagues and friends, in which I weaved the threads of my 25 years experience working in the private sector as a big 5 management consultant and the associate senior consultant of a territorial development consultancy, in the public sector. Here, I worked on public policy and governance as the advisor to the Minister of Employment, Vocational Training and Housing in the Moroccan Government and lived several experiences in the social sector with women working in infra-human conditions in industries and with a community in a major shanty town. However, the most defining experience of all is being the mother of my two daughters Sara and Maria. I am a board member and advisor to Imal Initiative for Climate and Development the first independent non-profit North African climate think tank as well to Africa Voices Dialogue a space where the voices of Africa’s educators and learners are seen, heard and loved. As a facilitator and experience based researcher for over 14 years in Tamkeen, I have the privilege to witness and experience, with different communities and societal systems, how the trust in our humanity and love create the conditions for the emergence of the social ecosystems of our societal harmony and human co-flourishing. 
Dr Rachel Lilley and prof Gerald Midgley 
Rethinking Systems Thinking: Towards an Anticipatory Systems Perspective
The transdisciplinary field of Systems Thinking has paid a great deal of attention to the meaning of the word ‘systems’: we have used the systems idea to better understand complex organizational, social and ecological problems; and to tackle those problems, we have designed various systems methodologies, models, innovations, and leadership practices. However, we have paid much less attention to what constitutes ‘thinking’, or cognition. Systems theories of cognition, originally advanced in the 1980s, have been validated, further developed and considerably enhanced by forty years of cognitive and neuroscientific research. Appreciating the implications of this research can transform our understanding of systems thinking. This keynote will first explain the science, and will then unfold two aspects of our new understanding: rethinking what systemic self-reflection involves (both in and beyond the context of practice), and appreciating the anticipatory nature and role of all forms of applied systems thinking.
Dr Rachel Lilley
Dr Rachel Lilley is a Senior Fellow at the Birmingham Leadership Institute, a new teaching and research centre in the University of Birmingham, UK, focussing on systems leadership. She is a practitioner-researcher in systems approaches and systems leadership and also Programme Director for an innovative transdisciplinary Master's Programme bringing together Systems Leadership and Systems Practice. Rachel’s high impact, world leading, research looks at human decision-making, systems thinking capabilities and behavioural change. It is impact orientated and has supported policy design and practice, community initiatives and leadership development at all levels. She has a particular interest in building capability to address climate and social change. Rachel is an expert in human sensemaking with specialist knowledge in cognition, consciousness and perception, her theoretical expertise is supported and informed by an impressive track record in practicing, teaching and developing embodied perception skills in teams, organisations and individuals.  
She has over 30 years’ experience working with large corporates, public and third sector as a systems practitioner covering community engagement, social issues, climate change, leadership and wellbeing.
For more information visit her websites:
Prof Gerald Midgley
Gerald Midgley is Professor of Systems Thinking in the Centre for Systems Studies, Faculty of Business, Law and Politics, University of Hull, UK. He also holds Adjunct Professorships at Linnaeus University, Sweden; the University of Queensland, Australia; the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Mälardalen University, Sweden; and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He has held research leadership roles in both academia and government, having spent eleven years as Director of the Centre for Systems Studies at Hull, and seven years as a Senior Science Leader in the Institute for Environmental Science and Research (ESR), New Zealand.  Gerald has written over 300 papers for academics and practitioners on systems thinking and community operational research, and has been involved in a wide variety of public sector, community development, health service, technology foresight and resource management projects. He was the 2013/14 President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, and has written or edited twelve books. These include: Systemic Intervention: Philosophy, Methodology, and Practice (Kluwer, 2000); Systems Thinking, Volumes I-IV (Sage, 2003); Community Operational Research: OR and Systems Thinking for Community Development (Kluwer, 2004); Forensic DNA Evidence on Trial: Science and Uncertainty in the Courtroom (Emergent, 2011); and the Routledge Handbook of Systems Thinking (Routledge, 2023, in press).
Towards a Unifying Framework for Systems Science
Gary Smith
Gary will give voice to a candidate framework for system science, a unifying framework that organizes system knowledge along two dimensions: 1) knowledge about systems and 2) knowledge about the general human activity system.
An explanation shall be provided how these two dimensions can be integrated such that systems thinking, systems engineering, project management, and other human enterprise practice frameworks can be grounded, and related to knowledge about systems.
The unifying framework will enable system researchers to connect and integrate their knowledge and efforts within the context of an integrated whole, an enterprise of system science.
The framework can help practitioners identify how 1) behaviours, structures, processes, and meanings emerge, and 2) how diversity can turn to complementarity, collaboration, and synergy. 
When you place this diversity in the context of the whole, it brings forth connections, possibilities, and deeper meaning.

Gary Smith is a Senior Expert Systems Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space. He is their overall architect for engineering processes and provides technical leadership in the digital transformation of the division. He is an INCOSE certified Expert Systems Engineering Professional and a senior editor of the Systems Engineering Body Of Knowledge. Since 2019 he has been the VP for Systems Practice at the ISSS and their relationship manager with INCOSE.
Systems practice has been a continuous theme through Gary’s life experience. He began his career as a lab technician in industrial chemistry at the age of 16, he taught himself how to write software applications in the early 80s, and then after his chemistry degree moved on to relational database systems, software development and project management. As a Project Manager, he was responsible for the delivery of telecommunications infrastructures across Europe before taking on the corporate leadership of the PM discipline. Later, Gary was recruited by Airbus to develop the discipline of technical management and worked to bridge the SE and PM disciplines. During this time with Airbus, he has had several roles as Chief Engineer and Architect of Systems Solutions.
Gary is a system junky, his passion extends beyond his professional work and into areas of personal interest to understand the nature of things, to appreciate complexity and to address the big ‘why’ questions. Since the early 2000s Gary has been applying systems thinking to topics such as cancer, inflammation, sepsis, pre-eclampsia and presented to the ISSS on this topic at their Washington conference – “Understanding disease with Systems Thinking”. When asked why he has this passion, he will talk about his parents, his uncle and grandparents, the chemistry set that he got at 14, Thunder Birds, Star Trek, Carl Sagan, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, and a wide selection of Sci Fi books.
Working across and with several organisations and contributors, Gary has been applying systems approaches and processes to integrate system science, systems thinking and systems practice.  This effort has included co-leadership of two IFSR conversations “Unity in diversity” and “What is System Science?” When asked why he does this stuff, “well, it’s what I have to do, it’s who I am”.
For more information you can connect with him on Linkedin:
A CONFERENCE RESEARCH PROJECT: Immerse Yourself in Emergence
This your opportunity to be a part of the more comprehensive whole resulting from this year’s conference. We want to transcend traditional conference participation into an enduring activity by inviting you to engage in reflective professional practice as you prepare for, attend, and implement your experiences emerging from the conference.
The conference theme is "Systems Thinking for Professions". The aim is for professionals to share their systems practices with their colleagues. As systems professionals we know that our way of doing things often differs from that of the professional stereotype. We like to see ourselves as thinking outside of the box. But “which box?”, I hear you think. Do we know what we have in common? Most people reflect on generosity and similarity when asked about their ISSS family experience. Before, during and after this conference, we will explore this matter a bit deeper.
Four of us are working together to better understand systems practice by professionals. We are: Roelien Goede, conference host, president  and professor at the North-West University (NWU); Dr Olaf Brugman, Vice President of this conference; Gary Smith, Vice President, Systems Practice; and lastly but in a sense most important, Stephany Peterson. Stephany is a PhD student at University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Canada. Her PhD is in Interdisciplinary Studies (Complexity; Integration and Implementation; Metaresearch). Her background in Sociology, coupled with her interest in reflective practice and the dynamics of academic conferences, makes her an ideal researcher to help us achieve our research goal. She is one of our featured new members in this newsletter. This research project will be registered at both the NWU and UNB. 
The aim of our participatory action research (AR) project is to develop a framework for systems practice in professions. Our interpretive research methodology echoes ethnographic AR aims to learn with the conference participants. We want to co-reflect on their systems practice journey to find common themes. Our research project will start before the conference through conversations with speakers. During the conference, we will collectively test assumptions and co-create with participants. After the conference we will reflect and corroborate our findings with the participants. Our work should develop into a contribution to systems practice by professionals.
This conference is unique in the history of ISSS conferences in that it is the focus of a research project in itself. This represents your invitation to join us as part of this journey. Tell us about your expectations in contributing to our living theory. After registration we will reach out to invite your consenting participation.
Introducing: Stephany Peterson

For those familiar with vintage Canadian CBC television, think of me as the two-legged version of The Littlest Hobo. Fitting in everywhere, I belong nowhere. This is in part what I have deemed a 'disposition for interdisciplinarity'. As a public scholar in critical research, teaching, and service across many ways of knowing, I aspire to serve as steward - rudder - for emergence of the more comprehensive whole. From a meta level, I consider this as integration and implementation of knowledge, mobilizing many ways of knowing to address the most pressing and urgent issues we face with the question, “what don’t we know that matters?”
My contribution is not expertise in component parts of problems; rather, my heart beats for eternally questioning and investigating the underlying processes common to any problem that meets the condition of complexity emerging from systems capable of producing it.
Semi-plenary Talks
Systemic consciousness: New horizon for systems practice
Raghav Rajagopalan
The polycrisis creates a renewed expectation that systems practitioners provide leadership. Are we up to it? This paper reviews the underpinning foundations of current systems thinking and practice. We focus on problem-solving, overly rely on rationalism, and depend on “knowledge” to move ahead. Assembling testimony from a wide swathe of diverse wisdom traditions, crucial fronts on which systems thinking and practice can be advanced are discovered. The referenced disciplines include – action research, models of consciousness/mind, perennial wisdom traditions, indigenous wisdom, trauma-informed practices, healing traditions, and arts-based research. Ideas like holism and enactive cognition – core concepts in systems thinking – do not translate robustly into systems practice. Yet these principles are deployed in other traditions. There are techniques to interrogate the validity and usefulness of objects and formulations in the inner reality of the mind, just as we validate outer reality. Further techniques examine the relationality of the “inner” to the “outer” in dynamic interplay: such witnessing is aware, or reflexive, enactive cognition. These practices are available in approaches outside the slender paradigm of modern rational thinking, a blip in human civilizational history. Western rationality, including systems thinking, believes all consciousness rests on intentionality. The author terms this orientation as the Striving Mind, and introduces two other orientations – the Abiding Mind and the Nescient Mind. Engaging these supports critical reorientations: seeking correct questions instead of “problem-solving”, meta-rational knowing vs “rationalism”, and accepting not knowing/staying with the trouble vs “dependency on knowledge”. These fundamental paradigmatic reorientations are demanded by the polycrisis – a transition well underway, and create a ‘systemic consciousness’. Gaps in the interpretation and theoretical development of other wisdom traditions deter the adoption of useful methods into systems practice. A careful, engaged and compassionate inquiry across these domains can offer a rich understanding for the future development of systems thinking and practice. 
Raghav Rajagopalan is an organisational and social development consultant from India, with experience in the diverse ways of knowing that the subcontinent has been famed for over centuries: practices such as yoga, meditation, various classical arts and handicrafts.
He is the author of Immersive Systemic Knowing (Springer 2020), Critical Systems Thinking, Systemic Intervention and Beyond (Springer Handbook of Systems Science 2021) and Knowing Differently in Systemic Intervention (SRBS 2015). 
Early in his career, his rural development practice required him to unlearn much of his formal professional training and relearn significantly from diverse marginalized communities such as artisanal fisherfolk, tribal farmers, craftspersons and schizophrenics, resulting in a discovery of the profound value of multiple ways of knowing. Raghav has a postgraduate specialization in Rural Management, followed by a doctorate in Systems Science, and is a Fellow of the Sumedhas Academy for Human Context, India. He was awarded the Margaret Mead Memorial Prize for an outstanding paper from his doctoral thesis at the 2014 International Society for the Systems Sciences Annual Conference in Washington DC. He has contributed with plenary sessions at ISSS 2015 and 2021 and co-chaired the panel on Future Cybernetics at ISSS 2022. He will offer a semi-plenary titled Systemic Consciousness and also participate as a panellist on the Embodied Practitioner Panel at ISSS 2023 Kruger.
Systems Thinking, Systemic Change and Equity in Public Health Practice: A Dialogue
In 2020 with the introduction of the COVID 19 virus the world experienced in real time the difficulty of predicting emergent global health consequences of the complex interactions of “under the skin” biological systems, and encompassing ecological systems and human social systems.  What has been made increasingly more evident in our global experience in the past three years is how existing social and economic inequity affects who is most vulnerable among our human communities, opening up questions for policy-makers and leaders in governmental public health, as well as those who train them.  For decades there have been calls for the incorporation of systems thinking methods and approaches into public health leadership practice, not just academic research, with different approaches to systems thinking more commonly used in different countries (e.g. soft systems in the UK, systems dynamics in the US).   The pandemic has heightened public awareness of inequity among citizens previously able to ignore it, and also increased awareness of our interconnections and the consequences for us all. Consequently, calls for understanding the social determinants of health – how race/ethnicity, class, education, access to safe spaces and healthy food, etc. all interact with each other to shape health and well-being – have become more urguent.  It has become clearer that systems thinking is required to not just understand but create plans for action to address the health consequences of inequity.  In the University of Illinois at Chicago Doctorate in Public Health in Leadership program, enrolled working public health professionals work together with faculty to apply systems thinking to address inequity.  Panelists will bring to bear their experience in blood donation in the Caribbean, workplace wellness in South Africa, and early child education in the US to discuss questions such as: what frameworks for systems thinking are helpful in developing pathways to decrease inequity?
Governing river catchment governing: the case of the Olifants, South Africa.
Globally there is widespread systemic failure of river catchment governing. Why is this the case?  The answer is of course that very few professionals involved in river governing approach what they have to do, or what needs to be done, cybersystemically. The issue is best understood or framed as a classic 'wicked problem' in which one element is framing failure itself.  Governance is rarely framed and enacted cybersystemically.  Drawing on his extensive river catchment governance research in a wide range of countries Ray will explore in detail his experiences in South Africa with the RESILIM-O project based in the Olifants catchment, one of South Africa's biggest rivers which also runs through Kruger Park.

  • What is my total cost?
    • Your total cost  is your flight to Johannesburg + your flight to Skukuza + conference fee + accommodation fee+ two restaurant dinners (other dinners are included)+ additional game drives / game walks to be reserved after arrival
    • Your conference cost depends on your status - refer to the table in the "Registration" section of this page
    • Your accommodation:
      Conference participant: $125 per night including breakfast [first 80]
      Additional person in room $55 per night including breakfast+ Conservation fee of $25 per day for those not registered for an ISSS event
  • Which meals are included?
    • If you are in the first 80 registrants your breakfast is included. Thereafter it is self-catering in a bungalow. There is a supermarket in the camp with everything you need.
    • All lunches are included during STiP workshop and main conference days.
    • On the 18th and 20th dinners are included in the form of a local braai (BBQ) On the 21st dinner is at own cost in the restaurants. The supermarket has lots of snacks.
  • Exactly where is the conference - and where should I stay?
    • The conference is in the Skukuza lodge in the Kruger National Park. Accommodation is in the Conference Lodge with an overflow in the Skukuza Rest Camp. We pre-booked your accommodation and you need to reserve your room as well as that of any guests during the registration process.
    • The Kruger National Park is an area of 2 million hectares where wild life has freedom to roam the bushveld of Southern Africa. More information on this world-famous conservation area is available at: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/.
  •  What should I bring? 
    • We compiled a checklist of most essential items to pack for your trip before leaving home. 
      IMPORTANT: There are very limited shopping opportunities in the Kruger National Park. Please familiarize yourself with the Skukuza Safari Lodge beforehand.  
      • Travel documents

        • Certified copies of your passport and visa pages to carry separate from your passport and visa in your hand luggage
        • Printout of your travel and health insurance
        • Proof of conference registration to be mailed to participants by 4 June 
        • Malaria medication 
        • Mosquito repellent 
        • Sunscreen lotion
        • Your prescribed and chronic medicine (with copies of their prescriptions)
        • General medication for cold and/or flu, immune booster, allergies
        • Add some band aids
        • The winter air in South Africa is dry which may cause allergies and irritation 
        • Mobile phone charger and chargers for other electronic devices (including laptops) 
        • Conversion plug (see Q&A on website)
        • Small rechargeable electric light
        • Daytime temperatures in the KNP are mild but game drives and walks are really chilly. 
        • Wind resistant jacket for game drives and walks (neutral colours please)
        • Warm base layer for nights
        • Hat and/or sunglasses for game drives and walks
        • Best is to dress in layers 
        • Johannesburg is cold and dry this time of year, while Cape Town is cold and wet
        Please do the following before leaving home:
        • Activate your bank cards for international use
        • Activate international roaming on your mobile phone if you want to
        • Please join the Signal group for the main conference
        • Please join the Signal group for the STiP Workshop 
        • When joining these groups, please update your photo and name for security purposes
      • Also note that you will be receiving the following mails soon:
        1. An e-mail requesting you to fill in a google form (please complete a separate form for every participant and guest)
        2. An e-mail containing instructions on uploading your conference paper onto the journal system in order for us to produce the booklet of abstracts and proceedings
        Those of you arriving by air will be met at Skukuza Airport according to your flight times for transfer to the Lodge. 
        Looking forward to seeing all of you in three weeks' time!

More than half of the participants are attending the STiP workshop at the conference to enhance their understanding of the practicing systems sciences. After many requests, we decided to postpone our paper review process until after the conference to enable authors to enrich their papers with ideas that develops at the conference. If you require full paper acceptance notification before travelling, please contact the organising committee (conferences@isss.org).
We request that you now submit the final version of you abstract on our Journal Management System, along with your affiliation, for the official booklet of abstracts now and the proceedings after the conference.

Go to the Journal webpage and register as a new user if you have not done so in previous years.Please ensure that your affiliation is correct as this will be printed on the proceedings
There is a field for: Preferred Public Name which will be used for name tags. Please do not leave it empty.
After logging in, the wizard for submission will start the process indicated by 5 tabs. You can follow the steps on the tabs but please note:Step 1: Please select the track associated with your abstract on the program and take care to select the 2023 track in the SECTION dropdown list.
Step 2: You should submit a PDF / MSWORD file with your abstract, please use the template provided on the website.
Step 3: Please copy your abstract in the text box and ensure that all authors are listed not only the presenter. Also add the details of the co-authors in terms of affiliations and preferred public name. Please select the PRESENTER of the paper as PRIMARY contact of the paper. All presenters much be registered participants of the conference.
You have to complete this process even if you e-mailed your abstracts to the programme committee. If you fail to do so, your abstract will not appear in the official booklet of abstracts now and in the proceedings after the conference.
Full papers will be submitted after the conference.
Please submit abstracts by Friday, 2 June.  
Thank you for submitting your abstract. You should get a notification email that the process was successful.
Attendees will experience the bush and culture of the park by going on game drives, traditional music, and the famous traditional South African braai.
A CONFERENCE IN AFRICA: It's Africa's time!
Venue and mode: In-person only​
Traditionally the ISSS President proposes a venue for the annual conference. In her presidential campaign video, Roelien Goede shared her intention to organise the 2023 conference in South Africa. The Council and the Board of Directors approved the venue for several reasons. This includes extension of the society's inclusiveness. Specific circumstances resulted in two successive US conferences in 2018 and 2019. Cape Town, South Africa was approved as venue for 2020, but cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2024 conference will again be in the USA.
Historically, the ISSS conference venue primarily alternated between Europe and the USA with occasional meetings in the Asia-Pacific region, often championed by the President to be inclusive of other cultures and budgets. At the same time, the events held outside of the American-European extended the Society's footprint. They enabled the attendance of scholars, students and professionals who would not otherwise be able to attend due to budget constraints. Not only was the ISSS able to expose ideas to the local community, but the community was also able to share and enlighten current systems thinking and practice.
We have given the idea of a hybrid conference a great deal of thought and would like to share our ideas on the matter. Part of our planning has involved attending conferences face-to-face with online participants present (INCOSE-South Africa) as well as attending a face-to-face conference as online participants (IEEE in Gold Coast, Australia). Both experiences and the resulting insights were used to guide our decision.
An African Conference
Roelien Goede is a ninth generation African and the first Society President from Africa. Bringing the conference to South Africa affords many Africans the opportunity to participate. Few conferences and activities of international societies are hosted on the continent. This shift makes the conference accessible to the Global South, and from Europe and Australia. Since 1994, South Africa has a democratic government with a most progressive constitution. Although the country faces many economic problems, tourism is a key revenue generator and travelling to South Africa supports the local community in terms of employment in the tourism industry.
We selected the Kruger National Park for two reasons. Pragmatically, it is safe and easy to reach without self-driving: fewer motorways, lower quality surfaces, and left-side driving means this can be very daunting to visitors. Participants are advised to fly into Johannesburg, stay the night there, and fly into the Kruger National Park in the morning. The details of a travel agent are provided in the special edition of the ISSS Newsletter covering all logistics of the conference. The second reason for selecting the park is the systemic nature of the setting. The park is effectively a country for animals - humans are considered visitors. Yet it affords employment and economic security for local communities. It also affords a rare opportunity to gain an understanding of the harmony present in nature that is part of the South African way of life and informs our perspectives. We hope that conference participants will become immersed in these. Similarly, our keynotes and workshops will celebrate Africa. The programme includes many activities to ensure that participants will experience the Kruger Park in its fullest and, by extension, enjoy an authentic and meaningful experience of this country that can sometimes be missed in conventional conference settings.
Hybrid Conference Technology Requirements
The concept of a hybrid conference means different things to different people. In fact there are two types. In the first type, referred to as hybrid, people can remotely join all face-to-face sessions and participate in the actual session. In the second type, online activity is separate from the face-to-face conference. It should be noted that the 2021 and 2022 ISSS conferences were of the latter type. There was no face-to-face conference at all. 
In online-only conferences, the quality of the electronic transmission depends on the internet capacity of the speaker and the receiver in isolation. If the speaker has a good connection (by controlling their other device usage) all the participants have the potential to receive a good quality image of the lecture. Assuming that the speaker has a good connection, the participants are in control of the quality of reception also by controlling their total bandwidth use.
Focusing on the first option noted, a ‘join live’ which we will refer to as hybrid, this requires technology in each room to project incoming images and sound from online participants who joined that room and a roaming microphone and camera to project the activity in the room to the online participants. There are 5 conference rooms all filled with participants browsing the internet and this is outside of the control of the organisers. The quality of the transmission depends, therefore, on the ability of the venue's bandwidth to handle five video streams out with all 100+ people browsing the internet, whilst receiving video streams via zoom from all the online participants.
The data-loads for the two options are, therefore, vastly different. Even at specialised conference venues and universities the bandwidth for online participation in face-to-face rooms are problematic. To increase the bandwidth at a venue is very expensive and not in the budget of any conference. Both the conferences attended (INCOSE-SA and IEEE Gold Coast) were hosted at high class ultra-modern venues and both still experienced online communication problems and online participants were to a degree isolated from the attending participants.
The setup in each room requires a skilled facilitator to ensure that the voice of online participants is equal to that of attending participants when questions are selected. At least one additional skilled technician is required to handle the video / audio equipment to ensure realistic interaction. Due to the additional technology costs, participants registering to attend online would experience much higher registration costs than in 2021 and 2022. From a budgetting perspective, this is also problematic for the Society because the cost is fixed in nature. The same level of investment in technology and technicians must be there even for 1 online participant.
Hybrid Conferences Time Zones
Apart from the technological issues, as an international society, the “join the face-to-face sessions” are also challenging from a time zone perspective. Our programme will celebrate the situatedness of the Kruger Park. We will have many activities outside the conference rooms filling time from early morning to mid-evening. Our conference room activities are currently planned to be from 10 am to 3 pm and again from 7pm – 8pm, local time. When it is 10 am in the Kruger National Park it is midnight in San Francisco and 7 pm in Sydney. This means that most activity in the morning excludes the American online participants and all afternoon and evening activity excludes the Australian online participants. We use these groups to illustrate the problem, but everyone outside Africa and Europe will have similar problems. The higher cost might therefore not yield the expected outcome for the online participants to be ‘in the room live’.
Conference Purpose: Emergence
Emergence is what we seek as systems thinkers. That is what we do and expect from interaction. A conference is designed to create opportunities for interaction - to engage in conversation. Sitting on a bench next to the river watching impala drink water, or having lunch together discussing the specific aspects of a talk, or catching up after the early morning round table is what we do and dearly miss! This cannot be duplicated online with even the most advanced technological facilities.
If we have online participants many of our natural engagement activities will be spoiled by trying to give online participants a fair and equal opportunity. The round table for example will be so much more fun if we do it outside next to the river or under a tree filled with birds than in a conference room where every move is captured on camera and microphones are passed along.
We are planning a festival for a conference with live music, sessions on birdwatching and meditation, conversations around the fireplace at night whilst being aware of the starry skies of the southern hemisphere, not to mention the sound of the hyena in the bush. These experiences are impossible to have online.
The disruption of traditional conference formats has largely focused on the technical: how to transfer existing models into 1s and 0s. This year’s conference committee takes the challenge of the disruption of the traditional conference format as an opportunity to dedicate effort on focus on exactly why, when, where, how, who, and what it is we do at conferences.
With these aspects in mind we will deliver an African conference that is uniquely in and of South Africa and its way of life. We will be focusing our attention on the quality of face-to-face rather than attempting to navigate what even the most technologically advanced conference halls and institutions grapple with: the as-yet insufficient technological advances that compromise how we can deliver an equally engaging experience online. Some traditional highlights of the conference - such as the keynote address – will be shared as high-quality recordings and posted for members-only section of ISSS.org.
There is no way we can guarantee sufficient bandwidth for the variable demand required in a setting with only mobile-network internet. It will be highly unethical to allow people to pay and register online and then every session turns into a slowly turning icon on a video stream from overwhelmed internet usage. We are realistic about how much online participants will be able to experience due to time zones and the nature of having a conference in a national park. To recognize that travel to South Africa may prove financially prohibitive to some, we published a call for financial assistance and a request for donations in the conference special edition newsletter.
Come share a once in a lifetime opportunity in the Kruger National Park!
Even the animals are looking forward to your visit!
More information originally given in a presentation 5 November 2022, updated 9 December 2022
presented 7 December 2022