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


  • Helene Finidori Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull


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


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.

Author Biography

Helene Finidori, Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull

PhD Student - Helene has a background in business strategy, branding and organizational development. She is a Senior Research Fellow at The Schumacher Institute. Until recently she taught Management and Leadership of Change in the Barcelona Centre of the International Program of Staffordshire University. Her main area of research are social change and systemic perspectives, with a focus on the development of tools and approaches for transformative action, and in particular those connecting dots and building bridges between people, organizations, cultures, disciplines, types of knowledges and languages. Helene is currently engaged in the PLAST project (Pattern Languages for Systemic Transformation), topic of her upcoming PhD. This project is developing an ecosystem of tools and methodologies for collective Intelligence around pattern languages of the fourth generation, oriented towards the collective interpretation and active monitoring of evolving socio-technical-economic and environmental systems.