Call for Abstract – 5th International Symposium on Cross Sector Social Interactions

Cross-sector partnerships for systemic change: Rethinking goals, governance, and organizational forms

Toronto, ON – April 18-19, 2016


Submission deadline: September 30, 2015
The biennial symposium series on Cross Sector Social Interactions (CSSI) brings together scholars and practitioners interested in the intersection of business, government and civil society to share insights from research, teaching and practice. The 5th International Symposium on Cross- Sector Social Interactions  will take stock of advances in CSSI since the previous symposium in 2014, and will engage in  professional development workshops, expert panels, paperpresentations, and keynote talks to develop new knowledge, concepts, tools and methods.

The theme of the 2016 symposium, and the subsequent special symposium issue in the Journal of Business Ethics, will be on cross-sector partnerships for systemic change. Participants will therefore be able to explore the potential and limits of cross-sector collaboration for forging deep-level change in social, economic and environmental systems. They will also have multiple opportunities to get expert feedback on their work-in-progress, to get inspiration for new projects and practices, and to network with fellow scholars and practitioners from across different sectors and disciplines.

Confirmed keynote speakers include the following. More featured speakers will be announced in due course.

-Prof. Ben Cashore, Yale University

-Prof. Barbara Gray, Pennsylvania State University

-Prof. Henry Mintzberg, McGill University


 To learn more details, visit the Symposium website, click here.

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These articles are part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

Pecha Kucha was a fun, fast-paced, and to-the-point way of getting to know more about the work conference attendees do and tap into their passions. Presentations covered a wide range of topics, from the plight of farm workers to the organization of health care, from the the inner space of the psyche to considerations about our planet and our species.

Jean-Phillippe’s presentation on the importance of paying attention to emotions in organizational work stood out for me. The slide presentation, originally set to run at 20 seconds a slide as per standard Pecha Kucha form, started stalling one minute in due to technical difficulties. Jean-Phillippe was completely unfazed when this happened, and he very skilfully seized the emergent opportunity to ask the audience, in a slow, deep, inquiring voice, the catch-question of his presentation: ‘How do you feel right now?’. The audience roared with laughter. The snafu ADDED to the presentation tremendously!

Humor aside, there is a deeper learning to be found here. How often do we as practitioners, while in the midst of our work with groups on a given task, take the time to ask ourselves that question and explore the impact of the answer on what we are doing? What would change if we did take the time?

Dena Duijkers,

HSI 2014

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Intra-organization Design

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

For the final panel of the conference — intra-organization design — we were invited to literally roll up our sleeves and do some dirty work. Awaiting us on the opposite side of the room were impeccably set up tables laden with art materials, each one attended to by an art facilitator dressed in a spotless, brand-new apron. The main facilitator attentively read the instructions to the activity from a cue card, then invited us to don our own spotless, brand-new apron, form groups and join one of the art facilitators at a table to await step-by-step instruction. The task was to explore our creativity by creating a group painting starting from a piece of instrumental music; the art facilitators’ role was to assist us in this task, a role they embodied mainly by carefully giving instructions one step at a time, managing access to materials, and more importantly, by giving us tips and techniques to perfect our final product.

As a student of Human Systems Intervention, I caught on to what was going on — at least for myself — very early on. After a few ‘teachable moment’ interventions from the art facilitator to ‘help’ us ‘perfect’  our group painting, I found my self-awareness kicking in; I was irritated, confused, and tempted to withdraw from the process. I felt the tension between the need for freedom to experiment and what I perceived as the restrictive, rigid and invasive presence of the well-intentioned facilitator. Wasn’t our painting good enough? I liked it just as it was, but I went along with each suggested ‘improvement’ although I had no idea what the end goal was.

I took a deep breath and tried to participate without being hindered by my feelings of inadequacy, but truth must be told, my creativity was definitely taxed as I increasingly felt as if I had to reach some unstated, and in my mind unattainable, standard.

During the debrief, my group mates reported having had different reactions to the facilitator’s interventions, some were positive, but most were either negative or ambivalent. Then Jacinthe shared an ‘a-ha’ moment with the group: ‘Is it possible that the people we work with as consultants feel the same way we felt just now?’

It was a glorious moment of self-awareness. STS seeks to involve workers in the design of an organization and its decision-making processes as well as foster continuous improvement and innovation. In participating in various groups, teams and committees, workers are invited to work among experts and other authority figures as equals.  We had just witnessed — rather experienced — the subtle impact of the way we as practitioners embody these underlying principles and values of our field on the people we work with and the overall outcome.

Looking back at the intra-organization session with the distance of time, I only now realize just how much I was unconsciously dragging my past experiences along with me and allowed myself to be triggered by the dissonance I perceived between the rigid structure of the activity (and those spotless aprons!!) and its purported goal of exploring creativity. On some deep level I was reading the message NOT to color outside the lines. But creativity, at least in my mind, is a happily messy process. And that gap affected my participation and ultimately the end results in ways, unfortunately, we will never know. This leaves me with some broad questions: how to integrate complexity theory with STS practice to engage the whole person in the design process? How to effectively flatten out the power differential between authority figures, experts and other members of the organization on both the conscious and unconscious levels?

Dena Duijkers,

HSI 2014

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Inter-organization Design – 4

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This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

This session was particularly memorable to me. I was touched by the discussion on Macondo blowout and the oil spill and what can be done to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The increased turbulence of the environment makes it impossible for any one single organization to respond effectively to external challenges. This idea is not new. Emery and Trist (1972) noted that “ these fields are so complex, so richly textured, that it is difficult to see how individual systems can, by their own efforts, successfully adapt to them”. Here is some learning from this session:

  1. Organizations must understand that they are insufficiently equipped individually to provide comprehensive solutions to any existing problems (sensitive responses to the weak signals). Any solution will be incomplete.
  2. The purpose of the collaboration is to provide focus through a collective eye (like the eye of the fly which have the fastest visual responses in the animal kingdom).
  3. The design question is where to place the collective eye. Since the most complete set of data is available where the operation is done, the collective eye should be placed on the drilling rig. This was a real life example how placing the command and control function with the people that do the actual job could have prevented a tragedy.

This session also left me with some broad questions about the design of the governance structure of the STS global network/community/ eco-system. How can we ensure that whatever we design passes the test of time and remains relevant and able to constantly adapt to the changing environment.

Catalina Barbarosie,

HSI 2013

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Positive Participative Innovation – Our second webinar

Last Friday we had our second webinar (free for all active members): Positive Participative Innovation. During this session, we learned the basics of this approach, its premises and principles, processes of PPI and its applications.

Bernard Mohr, Don deGuerre and Doug Austrom described in detail this methodology created by them, based on Open Systems Theory, Design Thinking and Appreciative Inquiry, and how it helps organizations in creating healthy, effective and flourishing
human systems.

The presentation is available for active members only here

Besides learning more about this exciting topic, the webinar was an amazing opportunity to reconnect with our friends and colleagues from the U.S, Canada and New Zealand.  We are exploring now the opportunity to support the creation of a Community of Practice for PPI. We’ll keep you posted!

Also, we’re looking forward to the next webinar on “Non Linear Work Systems” that will be presented by Carolyn Ordovich and Doug Austrom after the Leuven conference.

Thank you everyone for joining us in this interesting webinar and we hope to see you in Leuven!

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Inter-organization Design – 3

Several organizations are facing an environment that is increasingly difficult. The reality of this time is known as VUCA environment. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. If you want to learn an approach that helps organizations solve challenges in these VUCA times, don’t miss our webinar on Positive Participative Innovation, developed and presented by Don, Doug and Bernard. More information here

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

Let me precede my little commentary by stating that I am an INFJ according to the Myers-Briggs personality type. So I’m a ‘big feeler’. When I’m at conferences I learn by observation. I watch for the passion, motivation, and dedication in individuals.

And so it was with great interest that I was listening to one of our colleagues who had been involved with companies that were responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico several years ago. He spoke about how affected he was by both the disaster and by the lack of responsibility of some of the companies. He mentioned that his grand-parents had taught him that we do not own the land but are stewards of it. It made him upset knowing that these corporations were more interested in serving their self-interests then to serve the common good.

I’ve thought about that presentation several times since the STS conference in September. I do realize that it is important for corporations to protect their identity. Thousands of investors, employees, and communities depend on their existence. But as our colleague said in his presentation it would have been so much more honorable and upright had they taken responsibility from the very beginning rather than pointing fingers at prolonging the legal process.

In evading responsibility corporations evoke wariness and distrust regarding corporations. Once again the public looks at them as being very much self-serving. Unfortunately these corporations don’t realize that there is a stigma that goes forward with them; who will not associate BP as a culprit in the future-one only has to check the Internet to what is considered the “BP oil spill.” They’re not doing themselves or their stakeholders any service.

Recently I was rereading Chris Argyris’ work on Espoused Values and Theories-in-use. I’m sure many leaders in the above companies meant well but did not come through for the greater good. In my estimation, this may be caused by the leadership in corporations and possibly in the way they are structured. The way some corporations are run diminishes the role of values and affects the overall well-being of individuals. Unfortunately employees are too caught up in survival mode to take stock, often not having many other options.

But are they proud? I don’t know about you but I become passionate when I see organizations that have a meaningful mission-vision, produce for the common good, and go beyond the call of duty. For those organizations I will give 100%, with conviction and pleasure.  That’s how organizations did it in the past. Could we re-instill these values?

Although I am relatively new to STS, I trust that one of the components of redesign is to revisit and elaborate the core values in organizations through meaningful and relevant mission-visions.

Andy Malolepszy,

HSI 2003

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Inter-organization Design – 2

Do you want to learn a provocative approach that unleashes everyone’s ability to design and create the futures we most want and need? Don’t miss the upcoming webinar (June 26th) on Positive Participative Innovation. More information here

Inter-organization Design – part 2

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

Learning about the philosophy of the models (three beliefs: agility, transparency and integration) used to create Inter-organization design was really inspiring and gave me the opportunity to reflect on the complexity that it involves. It highlighted also the importance of using an STS Collaboration platform to build the trust needed when the different organizations need to define social and technical systems in an emergent way. The discussion about the Macondo Disaster also brought the same questions and urgency about  having a bigger vision — the eye that provides focus and responses that help to build not only collaboration, but  accountability and ethical behavior. Other important topics were the importance of value-driven collaboration, the high value of inviting and respecting the input of others (with a provocative invitation), identifying the stakeholders by their interests, and the design of a process to allow participants define what their shared purpose is (where the accountability is related to the purpose, not only to the task).

Marcela Urteaga,

HSI 2012

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How to foster positive participative innovation?

Join us for a webinar on June 26th at 12.30 pm EST!

Positive Participative  Innovation (PPI) combines Design Thinking, Open Systems Theory, and Appreciative Inquiry practices to solve complex challenges while building a culture of innovation.

PPI is a set of ideas, tools and methods that turns our normal practice of improving human systems on its head.

In this webinar, Bernard Mohr, Don de Guerre and Douglas Austrom will provide an overview of this exciting new approach to innovation — an approach that unleashes everyone’s ability to design and create the futures we most want and need.

To learn more about this webinar click here.

This webinar is free for active members of the STS Roundtable. If you are an active member, please, click here to find the instructions to register.

If you do not have an active account with the STS Roundtable, click here to pay the webinar fee of $30 through Paypal.

Join our seasoned practitioners on this conversation about Positive Participative Innovation and learn this effective way to support innovation in organizations.

This is what participants that have learned PPI said:

The PPI workshop was an important milestone on my journey of discovering the STS Roundtable and the STS community.  I have already borrowed a number of tools that were used in the workshop…  -Khurshida Mambetova

PPI Workshop engages participants in a live-case study on how to purposefully pursue the creation of healthy, humane, and innovative futures… the PPI workshop was a hopeful experience. It was beautifully designed by DBD (Don, Bernard, Doug) and brought us together to build on each other’s strengths while experiencing work in a productive and innovative temporary organization. -Aurelia Roman

[It] serves as a reminder for all groups that we can already find richness and variety in our competencies and backgrounds. It also reminds us that people in the system are their own experts in finding solutions… I liked this process as it is fueled by passion and bold ideas. -Marcela Urteaga

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Inter-organization Design

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

This  was a particularly impactful part of the conference as I realized there was a name and place within STS for the work I do in the community sector: inter-organization design. Not only that, I also realized that other people within the network are doing similar work, and facing similar challenges.  It also meant to me that I belonged there at the conference and among the other participants. For the rest of the conference when others asked what kind of work I did, I started with the simple response: “I do inter-organization design.” And they understood what I meant. It was blissful! I discovered I am not alone; there are people I can connect with about the unique challenges of multi-stakeholder work, and the additional challenges of applying STS where the environment becomes more complex, and the nature of the work and workflow more difficult to define (we are not making car engines, we are attempting to make well-being!).

The beauty of inter-organization design is to tackle problems and issues that are beyond the scope of one single organization. Bringing together community organizations, government institutions, the private sector, and beyond, poses significant challenges when they all come to the table. The model presented by Carolyn was fascinating; I was in awe to see that other people had cared enough about both community and STS to put collective thought into creating a theoretical model based in STS and apply it to inter-organization design. I learn best when I can put theory to practice, and I was excited for the presentations that followed to help make sense of the abstract theoretical model. These examples were fascinating and inspiring. Being newbie to the STS conference and STS in general, I was relieved when I shared with the person sitting next to me that I had not managed to fully understand the model and she said she was in the same boat. Our impression was that the links between the conceptual model and the practical examples had not been clearly drawn. I was hungry to hash out these links and more thoroughly understand an STS model that I can apply to my community work. I am still very eager to tackle this and invite those who have a handle of it to contribute their understandings and increase our collective knowledge.

Carlye Watson,

HSI 2013

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A successful first webinar

Today we had our first webinar (free and open to the public): a Dialogue on Systems approaches to organization design. In this session, we learned the basics of organization design, systems’s approaches, design principles (such as  Cherns’ Socio-Technical Design Principles, Berniker’s 24 Principles) and the general process of an STS design.

Jean Fuller and Mark Govers shared with us the definition and methodologies of the North American and the Dutch approaches to the Socio-Technical Systems models, and we had the opportunity to discuss the common features and the strengths of each approach. Finally, Jean explained the basics of Open Systems Theory and Beer’s Viable Model, and mentioned other methodologies that are commonly used during the organization design process.  The presentation is available for members only here

This webinar was a great opportunity to reconnect with our friends and colleagues from the different countries and to discuss the strengths of the different approaches.  We’re looking forward to the next webinar on Positive, Participative Innovation on June 26, that will be led by Bernard Mohr, Don De Guerre and Doug Austrom.

The invitation to the next webinar will be available here in our website next week. Don’t miss this great opportunity to continue the conversation!

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Co-Founder of the Global STS Design Network