A critical systems approach to conference organisation



Conference organisation, streams, perspectives, critical system research


The problem this research addresses is organising an academic conference to cater for stakeholders with various worldviews participants successfully. The task of organising the conference is often placed on an academic with a specific worldview who may fail to consider the limitations they impose on the conference direction. Churchmann's systems approach widens the conference organiser's perspective to ensure all stakeholders are considered. A holistic view of components and how they interact and influence each other is taken by modelling the conference organisation as an open system. The distinction between the 'involved' and the 'affected,' as proposed by Ulrich, is central to this work, requiring a witness to represent the conditioned reality of the affected. Conference organisers are challenged to review their assumptions and those of others involved to identify limitations and opportunities that may have been overlooked. Minimising the uncertainty surrounding the dynamic changes in different conference streams can ensure a conference's survival and growth. The research is practically demonstrated by analysing the objectives and components of the SAICSIT 2023 and ISSS 2023 conferences. Overall, this research highlights the importance of adopting a systems thinking approach to conference organisation to successfully incorporate many perspectives into their conference planning activity to cater to all participants.