Call for Papers

The Relating Systems Thinking & Design (RSD) Symposium offers a platform for discussing ongoing work with peers and presents the state-of-the-art in the systemic design field. 

This year we invite paper submissions for two tracks: short papers for ongoing work, and long papers for finished work. In addition, participants can propose workshops, thematic dialogues or submit systems maps for the RSD10 Exhibition. Blending on-campus activities with online meet-ups, we can use the best of both worlds in getting our community together. Whether you will present or not, your presence at the conference is a contribution to the development of the field. 

Get inspired and get engaged!

Theme – Playing with Tensions


Submission procedure

Theme: Playing with Tensions – Embracing new complexity, collaboration and contexts in systemic design

The fate of all complex adapting systems in the biosphere – from single cells to economies – is to evolve to a natural state between order and chaos, a grand compromise between structure and surprise.

Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe

Complex systems do not lend themselves to much simplification. Systemic designers have no choice but to embrace complexity, and in doing so, embrace opposing concepts and the resulting paradoxes. It is at the interplay of these ideas that they find the most fruitful regions of exploration.

The main conference theme explores design and systems thinking practices as mediators to deal fruitfully with tensions. Our human tendency is to relieve the tensions, and in design, to resolve the so-called “pain points.” But tensions reveal paradoxes, the sites of connection, breaks in scale, emergence of complexity. Can we embrace the tension, the paradoxes as valuable social feedback in our path to just and sustainable futures?

We welcome contributions on better understanding, communicating about, and ways of fruitfully dealing with tensions in systemic design. Contributions can be domain-specific and as such focus on contextual tensions, or can deal methodologically or theoretically with tensions as a general concept. The following focus areas highlight interpretations of the theme.

Breaks in scale 

Systemic design briefs are concerned with large-scale issues which call for a macroscopic perspective. Yet change is often driven by individual actors making decisions within their scope of control, at their own microscopic level. How to combine such macroscopic and microscopic perspectives, considering both the large-scale aims and the individual perspectives, in design?

Value conflicts 

When dealing with issues systemically, implies the inclusion of multiple stakeholders and timeframes. No systemic change goes without violations of values that keep the system in place. We do want a healthy planet for future generations, but to reach this, we need to give up on things we value in our current context. How can design creatively deal with tensions between short-term and long-term values, individual and collective values, and values between different stakeholders?


Throughout its history, humans have relied on technology to overcome every challenge they encountered. It is thus no surprise that our hopes to address today’s most pressing issues rely so heavily on technological innovation, whether it is a vaccine or a renewable source of power. Yet no technology is ever so powerful that it can do away with human factors, our ability to collaborate and co-create, our power relationships, our capacity for empathy, and our easily bruised egos. How to make the most of the available technologies while addressing human needs and desires?

Collaboration and transdisciplinary working

Systemic issues cannot be dealt with effectively by single disciplines. We need to bring multiple expertise together and push ourselves beyond what we know. But this is easier said than done. Every discipline and field of practice brings a different language, different mindset and different way of working. A variety of disciplinary perspectives together dealing with great uncertainty is a fruitful ground for friction and conflict. What can we learn from this and how to leverage such friction for more effective collaborations?

Combining thinking, feeling, and acting

Many of the problems that systemic designers are concerned with call for urgent actions. They are the realm of entrepreneurs, be they the social or the commercial type. Yet all the busyness of these solvers and makers may not result in much good if we don’t reserve some of our collective energy to thinking, pondering, and questioning. This is the role of the philosopher. Systemic design is at its most effective when drawing on the alternation of thinking and doing, each activity feeding new insights into the other.

We invite contributions to the main theme and sub-themes described above, as well as contributions that speak to the general theme of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, including:

  • Systemic design methods and practices
  • Systems change and transitions
  • Systemic design in organisations and services
  • Systemic design case studies


Short paper

Work-in-progress, as in previous years, is submitted as a paper with a word range between 1500-2000 words. Authors indicate topics, related to their paper, they wish to discuss with peers (open and suggested research themes). Reviewers judge the expected quality of the proposed discussion from the paper, and consider its role in raising relevant issues in systemic design. At the symposium, attendees and authors who wish to play a more active role will be asked to participate in moderated topic panels and read papers beforehand and provide direct feedback and or advice. The short papers are developed by the following steps:

  •  Content: New topics, explorations, work-in-progress, startup of new research.
  • Submit: Short paper 1500-2000 words in RSD 10 template, and indication of topics you want feedback/advice upon.
  • Review: Accept or reject.
  • Present: For audience and panel. Panel is prepared and will provide constructive feedback.
  • Proceedings: Short papers will get published in the conference proceedings (and panel discussion at the conference might motivate to elaborate on the paper for submission to RSD11 as a long paper).
Long paper

Full papers that present finished work, with a word range between 3000-5000 words. Reviewers judge the quality of the work and note down highlights of the paper. Accepted work gets presented / showcased at the conference.

  • Content: High level, finished work. 
  • Submit: Full paper 3000-5000 words in RSD10 template.
  • Review: Accept, minor revisions, advice to go for short paper instead, or reject.
  • Present: For audience traditional way.
  • Proceedings: Full papers get published in the conference proceedings.

Submissions need to indicate how it relates to the theme. Submissions can be clustered on domain or be more theoretical/methodological.


The proceedings will be published online as RSD Proceedings by the end of January 2022, including both short and long papers.

The SDA is exploring the launch of a society journal by the end of 2021 for the next step in publishing work.  We are also looking for potential journals to collaborate on publishing work presented and discussed at the conference. Information on this and how work gets selected follows later.

Call for other interactive contributions

In July a call for other interactive contributions like system map posters, Gigamaps and workshops will be announced.

Submission Procedure

You can find more information on the submission procedure here.