Structural design for sustainability: Cybernetic Theory and Practice

Angela Espinosa, Roger Harnden, Jon Walker


Sustainability entails a sophisticated understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and the social domain, and willingness by the practitioner to adopt less top-down, hierarchical approaches to tackling the entailed issues. In order to support the networks and programs that are required to foster sustainable development, there is a need for a holistic approach to organisational and programme design, and a holistic insight into the entailed problems. Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model (VSM) provides guidelines for such an approach, one that recognises and nurtures the variety of local human communities within the context of a global community. The paper refers to concrete applications of the model and outlines structural design criteria for dealing with issues of sustainability.


sustainability, viable systems, autonomy, democracy, social networks, holism

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