Oct - Dec 2014 Updates: Smart-CSOs & Purplsoc Workshops

by Helene Finidori

Johannesburg & SmartCSOs

End of October, and as follow up of contacts I had made during the Johannesburg ‘Building a Global Citizens Movement’ conference, I attended a Smart-Cso workshop in Barcelona, with representatives of civil society organisations, on the theme of ‘the Great Transition’ and systemic change. This was a follow-up of another workshop in France with several of the same people, to discuss how movements and organisations of civil society working towards change could ‘coordinate’ their action and ‘inscribe’ it in a global, systemic perspective. In both events, it appeared clearly that language, the understanding of each other’s position in ‘the great transition’, and the need for some form of coordination was a critical element for change to come about effectively. In both workshops, as well as in Johannesburg, it appeared clearly that the idea of coordination and the ‘natural’ attempt to build it around a ’shared vision’ could not work.

We spent some time working on points of agreement and points of disagreement. One very interesting statement we discussed started with the question:

“ Do we need a detailed vision to convince others about the Great Transition? Why? Why not?"

After heated discussions and several world café rotations, the final statement became:

“We need a blury vision to attract all kinds of different people to the Great Transition! So that everyone can fill their own details into a structure of positive core values.”

This is in line with what many of us have been observing and writing about.

This reference to blury or fuzzy vision or definition of core values or visions reminds me of the following essay just published on the IEET (Institite for Ethics and Emerging Technologies) by Artificial Intelligence Scientist Richard Loosemore: Defining ‘Benevolence’ in the context of safe AI, and of Ann Pendleton Jullian’s work on Power and Ecosystems of Change that I refer to in one of my old blog posts. 

What was added to the ‘blury’ vision statement was the following:

“The starting point is that there is something wrong with the current system that needs to change”

“The level of detail depends on whom you are engaging”, the more ‘cohesive’ a group, the more ‘detailed’ the visions and definitions can be.

“Regional and global levels are needed, as well as linkages in between”

 “The local level is a place of empowerment, trust and community building”



Mid November, I attended the PurplSoc (Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change). workshop, organised at the Danube university in Krems, Austria, with a strong inspiration and support from Helmut Leitner, member of this community, and engaged to support the project. Helmut presented the result of his research on pattern languages that he had presented at the university in June. A very complete presentation that will be of great help as we move the project along.

There were about 30 people in the workshop, 20 of which had a paper to present. The workshop consisted in games, using the tools or methodologies some had produced, to get to know each other and each other’s work better, and sessions of reviewing papers.

One particular ‘game’ consisted in testing several pattern language card games. This highlighted how powerful instruments they were to help express ideas behind words, share experience and interpretations.

For the reviewing of papers, we were divided in three groups. Each was discussed for one hour by the peers in the room, with the author as a silent listener (a fly on the wall).

My group was composed of:

  • Helmut Leitner presenting his research on Pattern Language and a project of application of pattern Language in a bio-regional development project with Franz Nahrada who was unfortunately absent from the workshop;
  • Peter Baumgartner the Danube University organizer and host of the workshop presented on the application of Christopher Alexander’s design principles to education,
  • Daniel Schwab, author on eco-psychology an immersion in natural spaces,
  • Frank Leymann and Johanna Barzen from Stuttgart University, presenting a pattern language for Costume in movies, and involved also in the development of a platform for pattern design and storage, Patternpedia, with which lots of synergies in perspective
  • A team from the institute of complex systems at the University of South Bohemia presenting findings on human perception of visual patterns.

Wolfgang Hoeschele my companion in Commons Abundance Network and Silke Helfrich from the commons movement were also reviewers in this group.

Outside of my ‘dedicated’ group, I have been particularly interested in the work of

  • Thomas Schlechte on the utility of describing patterns and of pattern languages for autodidactic learning, using the example of patterns for composing music,
  • Takashi Iba’s on collaboration patterns.

Last session of the workshop was dedicated to planning for the Purplsoc conference next July. The papers will be published in a collective book. The intention is to ‘mainstream pattern languages for societal change’, in a format that appeals both to scholars and pattern language designers, and to practitioners of social change. We will be discussing the format throughout the beginning of 2015.


What’s next for the PLAST?

The discussions have been very fruitful, and the PLAST  has found an interesting place as connecting dots between a certain number of areas related to problem solving and pattern language.

It is at the same time a corpus, a fractal grouping, an ontology, and an epistemological thread.

  • A corpus, because it is an interpretative language in its own right that can be used as a learning game and design system.
  • A fractal grouping, because as parts are assembled and combined, they represent parts and wholes in the system.
  • An ontology, because it serves as vetting and indexing system for other pattern languages and solutions libraries.
  • As epistemological thread as it relates the various pattern languages and areas of social change together and to the system as a whole over time.

The project that is designing itself, and that I will be presenting at an information day in Brussels to explore possibilities for EU funding under the Horizon2020 CAPS, with the support of Helmut Leitner, Doug Schuler and the Suttgard University PatternPedia team on Tuesday Dec 16th comprises the following blocks, for which we will be seeking specific further expertise and experience:

  • Structure and modelization
  • the PLAST visual language (vocabulary, grammar, syntax) via consultation of communities of practice (change agents on the field) and scholars in various disciplines (complexity & network theory, systems dynamics & systems thinking, mathematics, economics, linguistics, graphic design…)
  • Ontology for Connection with and between domain based pattern languages, mapping of the web of pattern languages and the domains of social change and the 'levels' of intervention: conception/vetting of solutions, learning, and 'cross-cultural' facilitation.
  • Technical Operationalization
  • platform (PatternPedia), an evolving repository of patterns by domains, with design tools, that enable co-design (graphic as well as text/code), forking and merging, and moving things around, combining, sequencing.
  • other applications: indexing of solutions databases, qualification or tagging of projects and models (Assemblé Virtuelle), indexing of algorithms’ ‘intent’ (DACs DAOs), systemic interoperability standard, language for the hermeneutic web.
  • Community operationalization
  • Constitution and dynamization of an open source network of communities of practice
  • Creation of design and facilitation methodologies, tools and artifacts, conferences, workshops, hackatons to ensure living on of the project.


PLAST signaling the 4th generation of Pattern Languages?

Takashi Iba has outlined the evolution of pattern languages over time as three generations:


I am exploring the idea that PLAST may be an announcement of Pattern Language 4.0, with:

  •  Object of Design being Dynamic Systemic Forms and Effects,
  • Act of Design being Emergent in System at various levels and scales over time
  • Purpose being Connecting People with the system and the effect they produce.

I am looking forward to your feedback.

Here's the full paper on the PLAST (Pattern Language for Systemic Transformation)

An Open Source Pattern Language (re)generative of Commons »An Open Source Pattern Language (re)generative of Commons
Project Roadmap »Project Roadmap
Oct - Dec 2014 Updates: Smart-CSOs & Purplsoc Workshops
+Comments (23)
+Citations (0)