Patterns that connect: exploring the potential of patterns and pattern languages in systemic interventions towards realizing sustainable futures

Helene Finidori


Working towards more sustainable systems is a critical endeavor of the 21st century requiring collaborative efforts for the broad development of systemic literacy. This paper explores the potential of patterns and pattern languages as tools for systemic change and transdisciplinary collaboration, investigation and design, and outlines the ways they could be further operationalized to develop and leverage collective intelligence and agency towards Curating the Emergence of Thrivability and Realizing Sustainable Futures in Socio-Ecological Systems.

Considering patterns and pattern languages, social organization, and systemic change from a variety of perspectives, the author suggests that the concept of pattern has an unfulfilled potential as cognitive technology for meaning-making, mediation, systemic configuration and exchange of knowledge, both within and across domains of human activity. In particular, patterns have properties that could help address the unity versus diversity dilemma while dealing with complex challenges.

Rather than giving a complete theoretical review of the field of transdisciplinarity and systemic change, the paper sets key elements of the context and investigates possibilities and directions for future work. Starting with an outline of the nature and dimensions of the complexity challenges the world is faced with from a systemic and cybernetic perspective, the paper explores the versatile properties and functions of patterns and shows how they could help conceive and develop a whole family of tools for systemic focus, interpretation and connectivity. Finally, it presents possibilities of applications of pattern-based approaches in transdisciplinary intervention contexts, using patterns as boundary objects to bring into focus different dimensions of complexity.


complex systems, patterns, pattern languages, systems literacy, critical systems thinking

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