A Summary of the Metaphorum Conference “Action Research and Organizational Cybernetics” – June 30th - July 1st, July 2nd 2008 By A. Leonard and A. Espinosa Thirty-three people gathered in the Hull University Business School under the auspices of its Centre for Systems Studies. The aim of the Conference, following the first Cwarel Isaf Institute Conference sponsored by the Malik Management Centre in St. Gallen last March, was to provide an opportunity for the UK community to gather – especially those who were interested in action research or engaged in post-graduate research using Organisational Cybernetics. A further purpose was determined to be to offer graduate students a chance to present and to interact with senior practitioners. Twenty people were involved in making presentations or facilitating workshops over the two days. Five presentations and one workshop were from the world of business. Luc Hoebeke opened the first session with a reflection about the need to learn Beer’s work from practicing it in businesses rather than mostly from the theory. Steve Morlidge presented an update of his PhD (at Hull Business School), where he is developing an innovative framework for financial performance control based on cybernetics to be tested in different businesses in Europe. Stefan Wasilewski also presented his proposed PhD project (Hull Business School) using Complexity Economics and the VSM to explain and model financial and insurance businesses. Arthur Dijkstra and Steve Brewis offered a small group workshop on the case of an airline related to Arthur’s PhD work on designing airline safety systems using the VSM. The afternoon session was about research on complexity management and sustainability. Russell Clemens described an action research project he did in Australia, in a corporate planning environmental scanning process, where he used insights from the VSM and complexity sciences, suggesting possible future research directions. Angela Espinosa presented an overview of her current EPSRC funded projects on complexity and sustainability, where she is exploring methods and tools that will support self organisation and complexity management in evolutionary learning communities. Other two of her PhD students summarized their research on related topics: Pedro Paulo Cardoso summarized his research on self -organization aiming to the design and test a methodological approach to community’s regeneration based in cybernetic principles. Kathryn Knowles described an action research project on Scarborough Campus (Hull University) where she is designing and testing a holistic framework for Environmental Management Systems (EMS), which focuses upon enabling informal networks of environmental activists to develop a bottom-up built environmental strategy. The closing session on day one was of a CD to introduce the world to cybernetics developed by Javier Livas. He summarized and presented his latest film on the history of Cybernetics, its connection to Chaos Theory and with the newest developments in the Digital Era, as well as the philosophical paradigm that it has developed. The second day started with a session on global, regional and national governance. Michelle Watts presented her PhD project work on cultural tourism and regeneration in Scarborough, aiming to further the understanding of control and communication mechanisms and collaboration in policy implementation networks in complex policy environments. Leonie Solomons gave a presentation on her doctoral thesis where she addressed governance issues facing Sri Lanka and focused an a few research topics related to countries facing heightened secession threats, and aiming to maintain ‘operational viability’ in the international arena. Jon Walker presented the case for global meta-systems to match the variety of the international businesses and organizations spanning many national jurisdictions and supported the need to design such meta-systemic mechanisms to deal with urgent issues of peak oil and climate change. Mark Johnson on Monday had described the learning from an ongoing project using the VSM as a mechanism of 'personal viability' in the SPLICE project where actions with learners were specifically designed to enhance self-efficacy through the establishment of more effective 'habits' of communication. On Tuesday, Robin Asby and Penny Marrington described their work in the education sector to help students become more selforganizing and reliant in an environment where much is done on-line and where autonomy can be difficult to promote despite statements to the contrary. Gabrielle Harrer and Mari Runardotter gave presentations of general significance. Gabrielle gave a preview of her Wednesday workshop on Frederick Vester’s Sensitivity Model and Ecopolitics game. Mari discussed her Ph.D. research on the challenge that preservation of material stored in digital form is posing to everyone from archivists to people who want to avoid losing pictures from their digital cameras. She indicated the main questions she has so far to use the VSM in the European project of digitalization involving several institutions and technologies. Dennis Finlayson gave a short workshop on methodologies he employed and wrote about for peace and conflict resolution in developing countries and communities. The closing session on day two was a workshop on the organization of Metaphorum itself, led by Allenna Leonard and Angela Espinosa. About fourteen of us were able to stay for Wednesday’s workshop, given by Gabrielle Harrer on Vester’s Sensitivity Model. We were taken through the steps of the model using the model’s software with its existing case studies in the morning and, after lunch were able to try to apply it to the Metaphorum organization. A further report will be made of the recommendations of that effort.