TALKS | Systems for equity, collectivism, co-design and citizen movements

Collaboration Competencies for Complex Social Challenges

Goran Matic, Chaordic Design, Canada

Read the working paper ⇒

This paper outlines some of the key findings from an MDes Master Research Project (MRP) thesis. It explores potentials of collaborating in the context of complex societal issues – that exist at the intersection of ‘wicked problems’ (Rittel & Webber, 1973), ‘problematiques’ (Christakis, 2006), ‘social messes’ (Ackoff, 1974; Horn & Weber, 2007), ‘super–wicked problems’ (Levin et al., 2012) and the more recently postulated, ‘post–modern complexity’ (Cilliers, 2002). The paper argues that the outlined categories of issue complexity belong to a larger unified typology, termed as ‘complex social challenges’ (Matic, 2017) – characterized by intrinsic asymmetries that give rise to the cognitive, contextual and cooperative ambiguities. Within such spaces, it is posited as necessary to consider the experiences of the key stakeholders from the liminal (Turner, 1995; Gennep, 1960) and salutogenic sense‐of‐coherence (Antonovsky, 1996) perspectives – in order to enhance the sustainability of the associated participatory engagement models. A new type of collaboration is proposed for effectively engaging complex challenges, posited as a ‘collaboration for complexity’. The new collaborative modality calls for specific meta-cognitive competencies capable of effectively engaging the exigent ambiguities. A typology of collaborative skillsets is presented – situated in a posited stakeholder journey through the uncertain spaces of liminality. An example use‐case involving stakeholders in a real–life complex social challenge is used to demonstrate potential applicability in practical design settings.


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