Redesigning Freedom – report from the Metaphorum annual conference: Dusseldorf Nov. 2-4 2018

Metaphorum’s areas of interest include, but are not limited to: the theory and practice of systems and managerial cybernetics, and specifically preserving and developing the work of Stafford Beer. Feasta have a long-standing relationship with this thinking. Indeed, Jon Walker and his partner Angela Espinosa – both leading activists in Metaphorum – have also been actively involved in Feasta for many years, and were key to the introduction and application of Beer’s VSM (Viable Systems Model) in Feasta.

Although the definitions of cybernetics are rich and many, perhaps Stafford Beer’s -‘The art of effective organization’ – approaches Feasta’s interests best.

Metaphorum itself was established in 2003 as an NGO to develop Stafford Beer’s legacy and has organised a series of conferences and workshops over the years, where a growing number of interested people have joined and presented research and publications related to organisational cybernetics.

The event in 2018 was entitled ‘Redesigning Freedom’ – an experimental, self-organising conference, exploring liberating new forms of social organisation. The event sought to find examples of radical and innovative organisational and societal transformation based on non-hierarchical, adaptive, self-organising structures. As well as his interest in the topics, Feasta member and former Trustee Seán Ó Conláin was keen to consolidate our growing partnerships with not just the cybernetics community, but also with EHFF (European Health Futures Forum) who were also attending. He had already co-presented to the 2017 Metaphorum in Liverpool.

The 2018 event was facilitated by Mark Lambertzheld, and used a variety of techniques such as Barcamp and Team Syntegrity. It was held in a unique location- ‘sipgate GmbH’ in Düsseldorf, a facility which greatly enriched the process.

In the wide-ranging discussions, geographically covering both Europe and South America, several topics emerged strongly, such as the importance of social justice in modern-day society, AND the collapse of political systems as meaningful expressions of democracy and as systems that citizens have any trust in. The adverse effects on society of the prevailing economic models in western society also emerged to complement these. Mostly these topics arose repeatedly when attendees were considering questions of social change, rather than addressing the themes directly, illustrating how important they were in the context of social systems today.

‘Grist to the Mill’ for Feasta!

Featured image: nested Matryoshka doll. Source:

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