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the systemic design journal

An open-access, peer-reviewed research journal for systemic design

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Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal is the Systemic Design Association journal for research contributions in the field. Following consultation with members, the SDA has committed to publishing the journal continuously as an annual volume. The first manuscripts were submitted in the summer of 2022, and following peer review, five papers were accepted, comprising the inaugural volume.

The short title of Contexts was chosen to reflect the common ground of complexity many scholars share as a common unit of design analysis. For the many different contexts of complex design—whether for social systems, social change, creative policy, planning, or socioecological systems—the idea and placement of Contexts forges a nexus of system, design intervention, and human experience. The SDA also recognises a responsibility to the developing field of systemic design. It takes ownership of the journal as a project to lead the development of scholarship, research, and applications to practice.

As emphasised in the editorial for Volume 1, “The journal aspires to be radically author-centred; Contexts does not aim to build a publication brand for itself, but to host a platform for engaged scholars who prefer to communicate here.”

The journal is published online, and articles are available for download in PDF format. They draw from design community authors, researchers, and practitioners, including work presented at the annual Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium (RSD) and invited authors.


Contexts is an open-access, peer-reviewed research journal supported by members of the Systemic Design Association. It is the first journal dedicated to scholarly reporting and research studies in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The SDA is committed to developing original scholarly contributions from the growing research community across all institutions and locations in the world and pursuing design-led studies and action research in complex social and sociotechnical systems.

The types of studies and articles of interest include the following:

  • Primary research that contributes to the development of scientific knowledge in the field, including field ethnographies, social science-informed design research, and interdisciplinary research drawing on multiple fields
  • Organisational and social systems studies
  • Qualitative research that adheres to appropriate study design and reporting guidelines
  • Systematic reviews across the fields of systems theory and design studies that demonstrate a comprehensive and unbiased sampling of existing literature
  • Systemic design methods developed and validated by high-quality fieldwork or practice evaluations

Systemic design research has generally followed a pragmatist and constructivist approach to investigate design interventions and improvement in fields of critical societal concern. Contexts is dedicated to publishing studies addressing social system problems such as stakeholder governance in public policy, complex planning, emerging economic and sustainability practices, design in sociocultural and sociopolitical contexts, ecologically sensitive built and natural ecologies, organisational design and novel business practices, and health and healthcare systems. Most of these are problem contexts susceptible to a wide variety of interpretations of value and risk, requiring design methods sensitive to surveying, understanding, and resolving multiple conflicting desiderata and values.

  1. Contexts promises a critical and pluriversal perspective in a discourse community, curating high-quality, relevant studies and space for presentation and dialogue for emerging, relevant and controversial work to stimulate. A suggestive list of themes and issues might include the following:
  2. Societal crises and problematiques as context for systemic design intervention
  3. Second-order cybernetics and systemic design involving reflexive dialogue, language structures, or cultural construction
  4. Sociotechnical systems design for flourishing, circularity, or regenerative ecologies
  5. Systemic design methodology, supported by practice or implementation research
  6. Design research applying systemic or cybernetics theory for transdisciplinary studies of ecological or environmental interventions
  7. Systemic design approaches to transformative systems change in complex social contexts.
Seashell and colourful lines invite authors to submit manuscripts

Authors are invited to submit manuscripts to Contexts at any time. The specs are available in the Guidelines for Authors.

Generally, these include:

Articles should be composed of between 10 and 20 unformatted pages, 5,000–10,000 words, not including references. For initial review, images are included in line with the text.

Use the traditional scholarly format in manuscripts, and submit them as standard Word files.

Total file size less than 10 Mb (compress or insert images to manage file size)

Submission via EasyChair


The Systemic Design Association will send you quarterly updates on systemic design and activities in the SDA network. During the annual Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) Symposium timeframe SDA will send brief updates related to RSD keynotes, papers, and workshops.

RSD11 event updates, program content, and proceedings are posted on