biomatrix online courses for sustainable system design

The Biomatrix School for Sustainable System Design offers online courses for (re)designing social systems for sustainability and ongoing development.

The courses are certified by Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The school also offers non-certified courses.

types of courses available

The (w)holistic worldview associated with Biomatrix Theory and the Biomatrix Design Methodology  is the foundation of all courses.

The theory distinguishes two generic types of systems within the biomatrix (or web of life, or universe), namely entity systems and activity systems.

Analogous to a fishing net which consists of knots and strings, entity systems are knot-like multi-function systems, while activity systems are string-like single function systems.

These types of systems occur in nature, society and technology. The  Biomatrix Courses for Sustainable System Design are concerned with the design of social systems. Accordingly, two types of courses are available:

  • entity system design courses
  • activity system design courses.

entity system design courses

An entity system is a multi-functional system that consists of different activity systems (i.e. functions).  It is organized as a three-dimensional matrix around a mission and self-referring ethos and held together through coordinating governance.

There are entity systems in nature (e.g. planet, organism, cell and atom) and society (e.g. an organisatioon, person, family and nation).

The Biomatrix design courses deal with social entity systems.  According to the choice of case study, the following derivatives of the social entity system design course are available:

  • organization design
  • public – private partnership design

organization design course

The course explains the theoretical principles of organization design and development. It also describes how a w/holistic learning organisation functions.

It provides a practical methodology for redesigning and transforming an organisation into a three-dimensional learning matrix. Through coordinated strategic performance management that is learning based and environmentally aware, the organisation becomes wired for ongoing change and development, in harmony with its changing environment.  It can reinvent itself and keep producing relevant and efficient outcomes according to client needs.

The course also explains how complex organisational problems arise and can be (dis)solved.

Participants apply the knowledge to their own organization as case study. (This could be a business of government organisation, NGO or NPO.) Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they redesign it into a w/holistic learning organisation. They also produce a broad implementation plan and a plan for managing the change.

10 months of study, 8 hours / week

$1100 certified / $800 not certified

public / private partnership design course

A public / private partnership is an organization that structures the cooperation of independent public and private organizations around the shared delivery of goods and services.

The course explains the theoretical principles of organization design and development. It also describes how a w/holistic learning organisation functions.

It provides a practical methodology for redesigning and transforming a partnership organisation into a three-dimensional learning matrix. Through coordinated strategic performance management that is learning based and environmentally aware, the partnership organisation becomes wired for ongoing change and development, in harmony with its changing environment.  It can reinvent itself and keep producing relevant and efficient outcomes according to client needs.

The course also explains how complex organisational and societal problems arise and can be (dis)solved.

Participants apply the knowledge to the partnership of which they are part as case study.  Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they redesign it into a three-dimensional learning organization. They also produce a broad implementation plan and a plan for managing the change.

10 months of study, 8 hours / week

$1100 certified / $800 not certified

activity system design courses

An activity system serves a single overarching aim which is typically stated in its name (e.g. education, nutrition, transport or governance system).  Other names for an activity system are function and process system.

An activity system is organised as a value / supply chain (whereby value refers to the outcomes and supply refers to materials that are being processed into value in each section of the chain).

According to the choice of case study, the following derivatives of the activity system design course are available:

  • project design
  • function design
  • business process design
  • industry design
  • public policy and governance design

project design course

A project is a temporary activity system that ends with its implementation (like an education or building project).  Its outcome usually becomes input to or part of a function. A function is an activity system that is an inherent part of an entity system (like the education function of a person or society).

The course explains the theoretical principles of how activity systems are organised as a value / supply chain. It also provides a practical methodology of how these principles need to be applied in order to create a sustainable design for an activity systems in general and project design specifically. It also deals with implementation planning.

Participants apply the knowledge to a chosen case study project (e.g. a personal or organizational project). Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they create a design for the case study project and plan its implementation.

7 months of study, 8 hours / week

$900 certified / $600 not certified

function design course

A function is an activity system that serves a single overarching purpose, typically described by the name of the system (e.g. production, marketing, education and transport system).  It is an inherent part of an entity system (e.g. a function of a person, organisation or society).

The course explains the theoretical principles and practical methodology of function (re)design, the development of functional systems and their strategic and operational management, as well as complex problem solving.

Participants apply the knowledge to a chosen case study (e.g. their work function, the organisational function of which they are part). Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they redesign it from both a strategic perspective (i.e. the value contributed to the organisation and its functions) and operational perspective (i.e. efficiency of delivery). They also produce an implementation plan.

7 months of study, 8 hours / week

$900 certified / $600 not certified

business process design course

A business process or business function of an organisation serves the aim of producing goods and services.  Other functions of the organisation participate in this as sub-functions.

The course explains the theoretical principles and practical methodology of business process (re)design as a cross-functional value / supply chain. It also deals with the development of systems and their strategic and operational management, as well as complex problem solving.

Participants apply the knowledge to a chosen case study (e.g. a business process of which they are part). Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they redesign it from both a strategic perspective (i.e. the value delivered to clients and other stakeholders) and operational perspective (i.e. process efficiencies). They also produce an implementation plan.

7 months of study, 8 hours / week

$900 certified / $600 not certified

industry design course

An industry is an activity system of society. It consists of the business processes of different independent organizations which link up with each other to form an industry value / supply chain, such as an energy, food, education, or health care industry.

The course explains the theoretical principles and practical methodology of solving complex industry problems and redesigning an industry and its sub-industries as a sustainable value / supply chain.  It also deals with planning the implementation of the design, managing an industry transformation and facilitating stakeholder participation.

Course participants apply the knowledge to a chosen case study (e.g. the industry of which they are part). Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they create an overarching industry design, as well as coherent sub-industry designs from both a value and process flow perspective.  The value perspective refers to sustainability, benefit to all stakeholders and minimising negative impacts, while the process perspective is concerned with process efficiencies and sustainable resource use.

They also produce a broad implementation plan and propose a suitable change management and stakeholder facilitation approach.

8 months of study, 8 hours / week

$1100 certified / $800 not certified

public policy design course

A public governance system is an activity system concerned with societal governance, such as public policy development, regulation of industries and other executive, legislative and jurisdictive functions.

The course explains the theoretical principles and practical methodology of solving complex societal problems and (re)designing public governance systems. These are designed as a value / supply chains of governance information with the aim to promote and reinforce desirable societal development, ensure that the systems of society are sustainable and that complex societal problems get dissolved.

The course also deals with planning the implementation of a design, managing the transformation of social systems and facilitating stakeholder participation.

Course participants apply the knowledge to a chosen case study system (i.e. the public governance system of which they are part). Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they redesign it as a coherently regulated value / supply chain from both a value (outcomes) and process flow (i.e. flow of information) perspective.  it also considers the strategic and operational management of the system.

They also produce a broad implementation plan and propose a suitable change management and stakeholder facilitation approach.

8 months of study, 8 hours / week

$1100 certified / $800 not certified

 

why the courses are needed

It becomes increasingly obvious that many of the existing social systems need fundamental change.

  • Organizations struggle with adapting to rapid changes in their business environment and suffer from too many uncoordinated change interventions which cause more problems and make the system unstable.
  • Governments are overwhelmed by societal discontent, pressure from lobbies, competing stakeholder demands and international economic and political pressures and growing societal problems. Recent political developments in many countries suggest that voters want economic, social and political change.
  • Industries are fragmented value / supply chains based on an ideology of deregulation and that the sum total of independent self-serving actions co-produce the common good. Instead, they co-produce unsustainable development and a wide range of complex, solutions defying problems (ranging from poverty, finance crises, education and health problems to wars and climate change). The causes of complex societal problems are well known, but not their solutions. For example, in 2009 the G7 finance ministers stated “We know what caused the finance crisis, but we do not know what to do about it.” Nevertheless, a couple of trillion dollars was thrown at the problem.

Albert Einstein observed that the thinking that gives rise to a problem is insufficient to solve it”. This implies the need for rethinking and finding solutions based on the logic of a different worldview. The Biomatrix Courses facilitate this.

theoretical foundation of the courses

The currently dominant worldview of science and management is reductionism. It gives rise to a multitude of scientific disciplines which study different parts of the universe in a manner that keeps the environment constant (i.e. ceteris paribus). This gives rise to much understanding of how different systems in the universe function.

However, systems also interact with an ever changing environment. They are influenced by and impact on other systems in their environment and being changed by it. This is not sufficiently studied by the current scientific establishment. As it requires a different worldview, namely that of w/holism (and its variants of systems, complexity, and ecological thinking).

Note: The spelling of w/holism implies that this worldview considers systems as wholes and that these wholes behave holistically (i.e. according to organising principles that govern a whole, as opposed to a part which is studied by traditional science).

biomatrix theory

Biomatrix theory is a trans-disciplinary theory that

  • defines different types of wholes
  • describes how societal, natural and technological systems are organized, interact and change and how this can be managed
  • outlines the organising principles that determine the organisation of systems in time and space
  • explains how complex problems arise from the way the current systems function and interact and that (dis)solving them requires a change in their functioning and interaction (i.e. a system transformation)

Biomatrix theory is derived from a coherent and internally consistent integration of the key concepts of systems, complexity, ecological and related models and theroies. This integration was possible to unique w/holism related conceptual contributions by the biomatrix research group. To paraphrase Aristotle: Biomatrix theory is greater than the sum of the different systems, complexity, ecological and related theories. It is a meta-systems theory.

biomatrix design methodology

The biomatrix design methodology applies biomatrix theory to the design and management of social systems and the (dis)solving of their complex problems.

It outlines the practical steps involved in the redesign and transformation of both entity systems and activity systems.

Although the steps in the methodology are the same for both types of systems, they are applied in the context of different frameworks. Activity systems are redesigned as continuous value / supply chains and entity systems as three-dimensional matrix.

The steps in redesigning a system are:

  • analysing the current system
  • brainstorming solutions
  • creating a designthat shows how the system can function differently and produce more ideal outcomes for its stakeholders
  • making an implementation planthat outlines the strategies involved in moving the system from its current state towards its more ideal design
  • making an change management plan that describes the steps and methods used to manage a system transformation
  • providing change facilitation which is concerned with facilitating stakeholders in co-designing their shared (or containing) system, aligning with it and being committed to implementing their share of the design and thereby actually co-producing the transformation of the system of which they are a part.

Creating a sustainable world is a collective stakeholder effort.  A single person, organisation or government cannot alone achieve this. But a single entity can become a leader in facilitating this collective stakeholder effort within their sphere of influence.

To do so, they need to become w/holistic thinkers and w/holistic change facilitators. Participation in a Biomatrix Course for Sustainable System Design transforms a leader into becoming a w/holistic leader.

learning approach

Through self-managed e-learning, the participants learn the theory and methodology of system redesign and transformation.

The course guides participants to watch videos, read manuals and other prescribed reading materials and to alternate this with practical application of the knowledge to a chosen case study.

Application of the knowledge to a case study involves action learning. Course participants apply the knowledge to the redesign of a personal system (e.g. the personal work function, or a personal project), or the system of which they are part (e.g. an organisational function, organisation, industry, or public governance system).

Through template driven assignments they analyse problems, brainstorm solutions and integrate the information into a coherent design and to plan the implementation of the design and how to manage the change.

The courses also prompt self-reflexive learning by exploring the relevance of what was learned.

An in-house delivery of the course to a client organisation (e.g. a business organisation, NGO, NPO, industry body or government department) also involves team work. Different teams are assigned different parts of the system to work on. The integration of their output involves facilitated team learning (online or face to face).

outcome of courses

Course participants become w/holistic thinkers in general.

They also learn how to transform a system by redesigning it and planning its implementation and (in some of the courses) managing the change. Thus they become w/holistic organisation development consultants.

In the case of an in-house delivery and especially in the context of a Biomatrix System Transformation Programme, the outcomes are implementable designs and plans.  After completing the course, the course graduates can co-facilitate the implementation of the design and thereby bring about the transformation of the system. (A tansformation programme requires a critical number of participants, whereby this number depends on the type of system, its size and complexity.)

Participants in an open enrolment course cannot produce an implementable design, except if they work on a personal system (e.g. their work function, or the start of their own business,or  a personal project). If their case study is a collective systems (e.g. the organisation, industry, or public governance function of which they are part) they can only produce a broad draft design and draft implementation and change management plans.  The reason for this is that they lack information from other parts of the system.

Nevertheless, they can use their draft design as a foundation for discussions with the stakeholders of the system and to inspire them to co-design it.

course developer and facilitator

Dr. Elisabeth Dostal is the developer and facilitator of the online Courses for Sustainable System Design based on Biomatrix Theory (which she co-developed) and the Biomatrix Design Methodology.

Her areas of expertise are futurism, systems thinking and strategic management. She acted as a management consultant to business organisations, NGOs and government departments on issues of organization development and restructuring, as well as strategy and public policy design.

 

 

The courses are brought to you in association with and certified by Stellenbosch University, South Africa.