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SDDP as a category of systemic design

SDDP sessions are implemented in compliance with the underlying theoretical laws and principles of a branch of Community Operational Research known as Dialogic Design Science1,2,3. SDDPs promote focused communication among the participants in the design process, as well as their ownership of, and commitment to, the outcome. The production of commitments to action founded on the creation of new, shared knowledge and learning, positions SDDP favorably, not only as a participatory research methodology to understand and explain a particular phenomenon or challenge, but also as a tool to decide on or propose subsequent actions for its resolution. SDDPs have been widely and globally used to analyze and resolve complex socio-technical problems. 

The influences on the early development of the underlying systemic design theory incorporated in SDDP came from Systems Engineering.4 Applications in policy and planning started in the early 1970s by Warfield.However, the theoretical-philosophical grounding was developed by systems thinkers in the Club of Rome.6,7 Özbekhan, Jantsch, and Christakis are credited with conceptualizing the prospectus8 of the Club of Rome, titled “The Predicament of Mankind,” which is considered the philosophical foundation of today’s version of SDDP. It is grounded on the thesis that contemporary complex socio-technical challenges require the harnessing of the collective intelligence and wisdom of people whose lives will be influenced by any decisions taken and/or reforms made (i.e., the true stakeholders). A relevant axiom states that “it is unethical to try to change any socio-technical system without the explicit permission and participation of those whose lives will be influenced by any changes” (i.e., The Engagement Axion, credited to Özbekhan),9 and the accompanying principle states that “any attempts to do so have a higher risk of failure” (i.e., Requisite Law of Action, credited to Laouris).10 

The Global Agoras11 are credited for the evolution of the scientific principles and the methodology in their current form. The implementation of a f2f application is also referred to as a Co-Laboratory of Democracy (Co-Lab), to emphasize the fact that, as the participants work together, they develop a shared language and shared understanding of the issue they are discussing, and they reach consensus regarding the root causes of the problematic situation, and/or agree collectively on the actions necessary to reform the system. 

The applicants are credited for the development of hybrid models of implementation, which allow the combination of physical and virtual meetings as well as synchronous and synchronous sessions12, 13, 14. 

The SDDP methodology has been widely and globally used for various bodies such as in key projects of the European Commission (H2020, FP7), the Council of Europe, the United Nations15 and various Governments including USA16 and Cyprus. 


1 Christakis, A. N., & Bausch, K. C. (Eds.). (2006). CoLaboratories of Democracy: How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom to Create the Future. IAP.
2 Flanagan, T. R., & Christakis, A. N. (2009). The talking point: creating an environment for exploring complex meaning. IAP.

3 Laouris, Y., & Michaelides, M. (2018). Structured Democratic Dialogue: An application of a mathematical problem structuring method to facilitate reforms with local authorities in Cyprus. European Journal of Operational Research, 268(3), 918-931. 

4 Sage, A. (1977). Methodology for large-scale systems. New York: McGraw Hill.
5 Warfield, J. N. (1973). Participative methodology for public system planning. Computers & Electrical Engineering, 1(2), 187–210.
6 Özbekhan, H. (1969). Towards a general theory of planning. In E. Jantsch (Ed.), Perspectives of planning (pp. 47–155). Paris: OECD Publications.
7 Özbekhan, H. (1970). On some of the fundamental problems in planning. Technological Forecasting, 1(3), 235–240.
8 Club of Rome. (1970). The predicament of mankind: quest for structured responses to growing world-wide complexities and uncertainties. A proposal. Geneva: Club of Rome. Retrieved 15 Mar 2020.
9 Özbekhan, Hasan, 2019. The Engagement Axiom.Özbekhan#Work
10 Laouris, Y., Laouri, R., & Christakis, A. N. (2008). Communication praxis for ethical accountability: The ethics of the tree of action: Dialogue and breaking down the wall in Cyprus. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 25, 331–348.
11 Institute for 21st Century Agoras.                                                                         12 Laouris, Y., & Christakis, A. N. (2007). Harnessing collective wisdom at a fraction of the time using Structured Dialogic Design Process in a virtual communication context. International Journal of Applied Systemic Studies, 1(2), 131-153. 

13 Laouris, Y., & Laouri, R. (2008). Can information and mobile technologies serve to close the economic, educational, digital, and social gaps and accelerate development?. World Futures, 64(4), 254-275. 

14 Laouris Y., Siita G., Roe P., Emiliani PL., Christakis A. (2011) Virtual Structured Dialogic Design as Tool for Analysis of Threats before Implementing European Dialogues Aiming to Identify R&D Gaps in Assistive ICT. In: Stephanidis C. (eds) Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. Design for All and eInclusion. UAHCI 2011. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 6765. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. 


16 Warfield, J. N., & Cárdenas, A. R. (1994). A handbook of interactive management (p. 338). Ames: Iowa State University Press.