Panels and Workshops at ISSS Meeting Waterloo

Workshops Saturday and Sunday, July 17-18.


Workshop 1: Helping to make Systems Mainstream: Bringing Bayesian Networks to the World

Saturday July 17, 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday July 18, 10 am to 12:30 p.m., Bricker Academic Building

Bayesian networks are now used throughout the world as a systems modeling tool within a range of industries including health sciences, engineering, business and finance, information technology, mining and exploration, forensic science, environmental and resource management and social sciences. The popularity of Bayesian networks is spreading due to their flexibility, ability to integrate quantitative and qualitative data, and information (including experiential knowledge), ability to accommodate uncertainty and ability to support decision making through scenario analysis. Researchers use them to integrate knowledge and scientific understanding about systems, whilst managers use them as decision support tools and to improve the performance of systems that they are managing.

DBL Interactive is a new decision support toolkit, developed by the University of Queensland, designed to allow researchers and managers to create and share Bayesian network models online, over the internet. It is specifically designed to support the collaborative development of decision support tools using Bayesian networks and the delivery of those tools to users anywhere in the world.

Dr Carl Smith and Professor Ockie Bosch from the School of Integrative Systems at The University of Queensland in Australia will run a preconference workshop to demonstrate the features of this systems thinking toolkit. You will learn how easy it is to develop a model, and how you can use the toolkit for participatory systems analysis, unravelling a complex issue and develop a system that can be used for decision making, scenario testing or understanding the system better.

Who can benefit?

  • Students from all disciplinary backgrounds
  • Researchers involved in any area of interest, environment, agriculture and land management, to business, social systems, engineering, health sciences and organizational development.
  • Systems thinkers dealing with complex issues
  • Consultants

Be there!

This is a unique tool for systems thinkers and a unique opportunity to learn about the background theory and how to use it directly from the developers.

Attending the workshop only: $90
Attending as part of the full ISSS conference: no additional cost.



Workshop 2: ”Vester Sensitivity Modelling”

Sunday, July 18, 10 am to 4 pm, Bricker Adademic Bldg, Room 111

“Vester Sensitivity Modelling” allows Holistic Capturing and Understanding of Interrelationships and Their Cybernetic Patterns. Its Biocybernetic Orientation Guides the User Towards the Development of Resilient Systems.

The complex problems and dynamic changes of our global environment – nature, technology, economy and humanity - are strongly interconnected. In order to understand these manifold interdependencies the systemic understanding of their behaviour is required. New methodologies help integrating the different perspectives to cope with a rapidly changing world. Building system models allows finding out how a system functions and how it can be designed towards adaptability and robustness in order to create resilience.

Prof. Frederic Vester (1925-2003), the German Systems Researcher, Biocybernetician and Member of the Club of Rome, has developed his “Sensitivity Model” in continuous feedback with management and planning projects. This user friendly instrument helps managers, planners and politicians and individuals to build up system models for all kinds of complex systems. Carried out manually or with its computerized tools, the methodology offers a systemic and systematic guideline. Gabriele Harrer, 18 years collaborator of Frederic Vester has wide experience in many applications of the Sensitivity Model. Her workshop gives an introduction and practical exercise of the main steps of building up a System Model in short time. With an objective and structured process the participants are building up a valid and understandable system model which answers the following questions:

What is the System in Focus? What are the main and system relevant variables and influence factors? How strong are the interconnections? What are the feedback cycles and what do they tell us about the cybernetic behaviour of the system? What is his the pattern of the system? How do internal or external changes affect its robustness or sensitivity? Where are the white spots? Will the planned measures guide towards a viable and resilient system? 

The participants can follow these guidelines directly in their practical field of interest.

The workshop will give also an outlook in the experiences of Malik Management combining the Sensitivity Model with Stafford Beers “Syntegration“ and “Viable System Model“.

Gabriele Rosa Maria Harrer. 1957. Dipl. Geologist. 1985-2005 close collaboration with Frederic Vester in application and development of the computerized tools of the “Vester Sensitivity Model”. Since 2006 Senior Systems Expert, Malik Management, St. Gallen. Research and practical projects around the “Sensitivity Model Prof. Vester“. Various lecturing activities. 


Attending the workshop only: $90
Attending as part of the full ISSS conference: no additional cost.


Workshop 3: Global Governance and a World Without War

Sunday, July 18, 1 - 4 p.m. Bricker Academic Building, Room 110

A pre-conference workshop of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) on Sunday, 1 pm to 4 pm, July 18, 2010, in the Bricker Academic Building, Room 110, Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 3C5

War is an ever increasing global problem for several reasons.  While the military traditionally was for security, the number, strength, speed and accuracy of delivery of today’s weapons make defense difficult if not impossible, and therefore the weapons available to armies or terrorists create insecurity. The cost of these potent weapons and of the defense against them is prohibitive, and the environmental damage of a war is unacceptable too.  Therefore, security through armed peace is no longer an option. Unfortunately, the misconception of security through strength still prevails. In reality, security does not depend on the military strength itself, but on the difference in military strength between opponents.  Thus, the quest for security through being stronger than the opponent is the intrinsic cause for the deadly arms race.     

History shows that security is possible through the force of law. Governed entities often have an acceptable level of internal peace.  Municipalities, non-failed states, and more recently the multinational entity of the European Union demonstrate that humans can live in peace within properly governed entities.  This workshop will seek to show how available global communication and transport technology could make global governance and, through it, global peace feasible.  Using systemic analysis, the societal architecture required for global governance supplying global legislation, jurisprudence, and executive needs will be explored, and recommendations for reforms of the UN system will be developed.

Co-sponsors of this workshop:

  • The Global Issues Project of Science for Peace and the Canadian Pugwash
  • International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS)
  • Project Ploughshares (to be confirmed)
  • World Federalist Movement - Canada
  • UN Association of Canada (to be confirmed)
  • ISSS Systemic Approaches to Conflict and Crises SIG
  • ISSS Living Systems Analysis (to be confirmed)

All participants at the ISSS meeting, members of the co-sponsoring societies and of the general public are invited to participate and to contribute short statements of their ideas on the topic.  A pre-conference workshop blog will carry statements submitted in electronic form.  Admission to the workshop is free for those registered for the ISSS Conference.  A special registration fee of $ 30 is available to those not registered in the full ISSS Conference.  For more information contact:

Helmut Burkhardt (Global Issues Project Science for Peace/Pugwash),) or 

Dennis Finlayson (ISSS)

Attending the workshop only: $30
Attending as part of the full ISSS conference: no additional cost.



Workshop 4: Modeling Support for Disaster Prevention and Recovery - Systemic Challenges for First Responders

Sunday, July 18, 10am to 4pm.

Motivation for the Workshop: Natural and man made disasters have always threatened people. In the last decades both the awareness of threats and the occurrence of actual disasters (many of them man-made or at least triggered by human activities) has grown.

  • Today’s disasters usually endanger considerable more persons and larger areas in more diversified ways.
  • Society has a basic interest to ensure that its environment behaves like a dependable system (providing safety, reliability, availability, security, maintainability, survivability, etc.). This implies the necessity of avoiding, eliminating or at least mitigating the negative impacts of disasters in order to re-establish dependability as fast as possible.
  • In today’s complex world a holistic, systemic approach is needed for training and supporting First Responders (i.e. fire brigades, ambulance services, police forces) with respect to interventions in the case of incidents.

Workshop objective: In this workshop we will try to identify methods, best practices and software tools which are helpful in training and supporting First Responders.

We intend to look at the problems of training and interventions in a systemic way, considering all types of stakeholders with respect to both short time and long-term issues and problems.

Prime application of software tools will be the modeling of scenarios and environments, simulating disasters and reactions, providing simulation-based training, and using the predictive power of simulation in real disaster interventions.

Key targeted technologies will be System Dynamics tools and Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality systems but other techniques should also be included.

We will correlate the proposed methods and tools to the needs of First Responders (an initial list of needs will be supplied to registered participants of the workshop).

We hope to include in this workshop participants from many different fields, from First Responders, from computer experts, psychologists, human factor specialists, etc.

Attending the workshop only: $30
Attending as part of the full ISSS conference: no additional cost.




Workshop 5: System theory and our mind - the concentration and purification technique for our mind as taught by Buddha, a mental healthcare protection program for the harmonic governance for a resilient planet

Saturday, 17th July, 1 to 4 pm, Bricker Academic Bldg. Room 112

We use our body to experience the world around us but our mind is the one who is observing and making the decisions to change the world. System theory sees the world composed of the observer, the decision maker, the system, the environment, the boundary and the relationships between them. And there are two opposite forces in the world that constantly interacting with each other, creating the flow of energy, matter and information between systems and the environment. On one hand we have the disorder force governed by the second law of thermodynamics that drive everything into a equilibrium state with maximum entropy. On the other hand we have the organizational force governed by the constrains of a system that drive the system into a particular steady state with a low entropy.

Our mind are both the observer and the decision maker with a major problem. Throughout our life we have been looking for sanctification that brings happiness. Our government have been relying on economics to achieve this but 80% of the time we are dis-satisfied with the people and situations around us, bringing craving, aversion and ignorance into our minds and creating all sorts of problems in our society. This is called suffering in the teaching of Buddha, and he offered us with a three step solution for our mind. In this workshop we investigate the systemic view of these three step namely self protection, concentration and purification of our mind.
Death is the end of our lives or just the beginning of another new life? A system undergoes a transition of system state during death, but will the system continue in other forms at another places? Or will it just terminate totally? What are the possible new system states and are they sustainable? In this workshop we will investigate the sustainability of Heaven, Hell, Earth and Nibbana (null). And we investigate the way to prepare ourselves to transit into these states.
The governance of materialism around us are achieved through economics, and the governance of materialism within us are achieved through healthcare. The governance of spiritualism around us are achieved through religion, but how about the governance of spiritualism within us (our mind and mental contents)? We investigate a 10-day Vipassana mental healthcare program for people of all religions including scientific communities. It is believed such a program could bring happiness, peacefulness and harmony for our community.

Led by: Thomas S L Wong and Yan Huang, Ancient Balance Medicine Education Ctr Ltd, Ancient Balance Medicine Research Institute, 1103 Fortune Ctr, 48 Yun Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, HK, Hong

Attending the workshop only: $30
Attending as part of the full ISSS conference: no additional cost.



Workshop 6: Traditional Chinese Medicine Healthcare Protection Program - a possible missing component in the systemic thinking of the health governance for a resilient planet

Sunday, July 18th, 1 - 4 pm, Bricker Academic Building, Room 112
Reductionism was the major scientific view before world war II, its development leads to industrial revolution and modern medicine. Traditional medicine like Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, and Western Herbal Medicine was then considered as alternative medicine because they are seem incompatible with reductionism and allopathic medicine. However, reductionism was found to be a incomplete scientific view after world war II and a more holistic scientific view was developed namely system theory.
Systemic thinking is to consider both the system and the environment when analyzing or maintaining a system, or its environment. When analyzing a particular component within a system, all other components should be considered as well.

Traditional medicine has been analyzed with the incomplete scientific theory for logical explanations of its medical theory and practice, resulting in confusion and misunderstanding. This workshop will demonstrate a method to use system theory to investigate the holistic nature of a particular traditional medicine namely Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is believed that all other traditional and alternative medicine could be better understood in this holistic scientific view of system theory. The Taichi Yin-Yang system theory was developed when combining both the traditional Chinese thinking and the systemic thinking. Taichi is considered as the organizational force in the universe, and the Yin-Yang combo is considered as the log2 information gathering process, the current state determination process, and the steady state regulation process.
According to the Taichi Yin-Yang system theory, the Taichi(Yin, Yang) structure should be used in all analysis. The possible analysis of health system are:

  • Health(physical, mental) - the Cold-Hot spectrum
  • Health(chronic, acute) - the Deficient-Excess spectrum
  • Health(external hygiene protection, internal healthcare protection) - the Superficial-Internal spectrum

Our resilient planet produced lots of complicated health problems but our government did not have a holistic healthcare system. This workshop will demonstrate a possible solution to the missing component of the healthcare system, namely Traditional Chinese Medicine Healthcare Protection Program which is simple and effective for promoting in the community. Helping the poor with money will never be enough, but helping the poor to make money themselves is a more permanent solution and may even have a positive feedback to the helper. A internal healthcare program should teach the community how to take up the responsibility of their own health in a simple and effective manner. The Traditional Chinese Medicine Healthcare Protection Program composed of three components:

  • the TCM diet on how to choose food from the Cold-Hot food spectrum,
  • the TCM Taichi exercise therapy on how to regulate our body and Chi (Qi) from the fully Open-Close movement spectrum,
  • the TCM 24h healthcare lifestyle on how to use our health wisely for work and fun from the Human-Environment spectrum.Led by: Thomas S L Wong and Yan Huang, Ancient Balance Medicine Education Ctr Ltd, Ancient Balance Medicine Research Institute, 1103 Fortune Ctr, 48 Yun Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, HK, Hong

Attending the workshop only: $30
Attending as part of the full ISSS conference: no additional cost.



Workshop 7: Ecopolicy - It's a Cybernetic World... Play your way to a new understanding of our complex world.

Wednesday evening, 7 - 8 pm, Bricker Academic Bldg 110, no cost to all participants

The simulation- and strategy game was conceived by the German biocybernetician and environmental pioneer Frederic Vester as a contribution to the necessity of understanding the processes in complex systems.

It makes the player governor in a fantasy land called Cybernetia. The country is represented by eight areas of life - as politics, production, environmental stress, quality of life, education and population. With their interlinkages by dynamic relations it shows that many things which we see separated are in fact interconnected. Often the unknown relations are more important as the things themselves.

Each decision of the player results in chains of effects and repercussions just as in real life. By getting acquainted with pattern recognition and a parallel processing of the interconnected levels of our reality, the player experiences how to develop relevant & future oriented decisions in order to achieve resilient systems.

Last but not least, it's also fun. Illustrations, animations and music lead to the emotional message the game is supposed to fulfil.

For a few years, the software has been used in a Germany wide school contest, the  “ecopolicyade”, founded by engaged teachers. In 2009/2010 over 90,000 students participated, with finals in the German Parliament. The contest will be extended internationally, supported by Malik Management.

Fredmund Malik: "With the ecopolicyade, a new generation of system-thinkers grows up. Our aim is to enable all children, but also politicians and manager, to learn to understand and to master complexity. Introducing a broad public to the findings of cybernetics is the basis for control and management of our society towards viability."


Panel Discussion Session: Social Innovation Generation, in conjunction with the Canadian Resilience Alliance Network

Dan McCarthy, PhD, Assistant Professor, Social Innovation Generation /
Department of Environment and Resources Studies, University of Waterloo
E-mail:, Telephone: 519-888-4567 ext. 33065

At Social Innovation Generation, University of Waterloo (SiG@Waterloo), our goal is to generate new knowledge about social innovations and the social innovation process in Canada. In particular, the dynamics of learning, adaptation and innovation for fostering resilience in linked social-ecological systems. We will seek to disseminate new knowledge through publications and learning events from graduate programs to lecture series developed inside and outside the university research community.  

This panel will also include discussion of the work of the Canadian Resilience Alliance Network (CANRANET). CANRANET is an emerging node in the international Resilience Alliance (RA) made up of some 30 researchers and practitioners from across the country.  The intent of CANRANET is to provide fora for Canadian resilience researchers and practitioners to exchange data, information and knowledge on theory and practice of resilience as well as to bring a uniquely Canadian perspective to the concept of resilience.  

Social innovation is an initiative, product, process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system. Successful social innovations have durability and broad impact. While social innovation has recognizable stages and phases, achieving durability and scale is a dynamic process that requires both emergence of opportunity and deliberate agency, and a connection between the two. The capacity of any society to create a steady flow of social innovations, particularly those which re-engage vulnerable populations, is an important contributor to the overall social and ecological resilience.  

The proposed ISSS 2010 panel/stream will present key conceptual advancements in understanding the dynamics of social innovation, based primarily on Panarchy theory (Gunderson and Holling, 2002) and resilience thinking (Walker and Salt, 2006), and using detailed empirical case studies. Papers in the proposed panel/session will focus on the role of innovation in fostering system resilience, the issue of scale in the social innovation dynamic and social entrepreneurship etc., and papers on a critical, social science review of resilience; Canadian case studies of resilience assessment; and the relationship between resilience and social innovation.