A weekly brownbag seminar is hosted by the Complexity & Community Sustainability Initiative, which is funded by the USF Interdisciplinary Initiative on Sustainable Communities and also supported through resources provided by the other institutional partners of the Initiative, which include: the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, MacDill Air Force Base Family Advocacy & Outreach Program, SCOPE (a community organization in Sarasota) and the Sarasota County Government.

USF faculty, staff, and students, as well as all other local community members, are welcome to participate. Students who register for USF course credit will attend weekly. For others, the brownbag is "drop in," and folks are encouraged to come whenever they are free.

To view or post to the virtual discussion that is emerging among participants, please click on the "discussion" tab above.

Meeting time and location:

Time: Wednesdays, 12:00 – 3:00
12 – 1: Presentation
1 – 2: Discussion
2 – 3: Opportunity for Networking / Collaboration

Location: FMHI MHC 1503; some weeks in Westside C

The time and location may be adjusted over the course of the semester, as we may choose to meet in other community spaces instead. Because the seminar is scheduled at noon, participants are welcome and encouraged to bring their lunch, in a brown bag or otherwise!

Selected texts:

Readings will be selected on a weekly basis by brownbag seminar participants, in consultation with faculty and staff of the Initiative, to optimally support the generation of knowledge regarding complexity science and community sustainability. Readings will include articles and chapters listed in the course outline as well as material posted on complexity- and community-related websites and blogs. Participants will be encouraged to share readings and resources with the group on an ongoing basis.

Seminar Description:

This brownbag seminar is designed to provide opportunities for USF faculty and students, as well as other interested individuals in local USF-affiliated communities, to come together from a variety of disciplines, departments and sectors, in order to generate knowledge about how the theory and science of complexity can inform the development of sustainable communities. It will begin with the following orientation:

When a community is conceptualized as a complex adaptive system, it is recognized as a dynamic network of diverse agents interacting with one another and the environment to co-evolve over time. “Agents” are the people or entities that have the capacity to change intentionally and thereby influence one another and the evolution of a system. Complexity emphasizes processes of self-organization among agents as the central means of fostering the ongoing health, resilience and hardiness of a system, whether that system is a family, an organization, or a community.

Although the complexity approach may seem intuitive to people who focus on community organizing and sustainability efforts, it typically requires an overriding of deeply held mental models about community development and systems change that have been imported from traditional social science and the business world. Traditional, “Newtonian” science emphasizes linearity and assumes that a whole system can be understood through a detailed analysis of all its parts. Traditional business models reflect this orientation by emphasizing the development of highly detailed master plans created by experts, followed by the disciplined implementation of these plans to achieve pre-specified outcomes, in order to confirm the “achievement” of sustainability. Emphasis traditionally is placed on directing processes, preventing deviations from plans, eliminating environmental threats and maintaining stability.

In contrast, a complexity approach assumes that cause-effect pathways are highly numerous and multi-directional and a whole system is more than a sum of its parts. Because agents have free will and the environment is continually changing, individual and system behaviors are often unpredictable and uncontrollable. Facilitating the ongoing health and sustainability of a system therefore involves facilitating its ability to self-organize in continually adaptive, flexible and responsive ways. Sustainability is about cultivating relationships, assets, strengths, and capital to enable perpetual “goodness of fit.”

The brownbag seminar will provide opportunities for participants to critically review the literature that already exists regarding complexity and community sustainability, to participate in discussions with invited speakers, and also to generate new knowledge, both through engagement with one another and through reflection in/on action in communities.

Seminar Format and Evaluation:

The following details are provided for those individuals who choose to participate in the brownbag seminar for 3 USF course credits:

The course will be organized as a seminar, so the expectation will be that participants attend each meeting prepared to discuss the readings selected for that week, as well as issues that have emerged through active engagement in communities. So that the structures and processes of the seminar best fit with the evolution of the learning community, it is anticipated that the seminar format will be adjusted over the course of the semester, especially as additional resources and opportunities are identified. Participation in seminar discussions will be collectively facilitated.

In order to cultivate the development of a learning community focused on complexity and community sustainability, participants will also co-create a virtual space to share thoughts, resources and support to facilitate learning. Seminar participants will contribute to the evolution of this virtual community through the posting of profiles, questions, comments, and replies, as well as the sharing of websites and resources.

Because the freshest thinking and most recent innovations in the field of complexity might be better detected through a continual monitoring of complexity-related websites and list-serves than through a review of published materials, each seminar participant will select one to two websites or list-serves to track over the course of the semester. Participants will provide regular updates to one another regarding the topics, concepts and ideas that are being generated and discussed on the selected websites / list-serves.

In order to facilitate others’ learning regarding complexity and community sustainability, each participant will develop (at least) one brief complexity-informed description / illustration of a particular community, to be posted on the wiki / website for the Community & Complexity Initiative.

Before the end of the semester, each participant will also write a “communiplexity position statement,” a personally, academically and / or professionally-informed perspective on communities as complex adaptive systems, integrating knowledge generated over the course of the semester with understanding developed through scholarship in one’s “discipline of origin” and lived experience. This might take the form of a “white paper,” might be a compilation of blog entries, or might take another form, to be agreed upon with seminar faculty and fellow participants.

The overall course grade (pass / fail) will be determined on the basis of:
  • Seminar participation (30%)
  • Web-based learning community participation (30%)
  • Complexity-informed community description / illustration (10%)
  • Communiplexity position statement (30%)
Individuals who choose to sign up for less than 3 credits will have an opportunity to develop an individualized plan with the sponsoring faculty of the brownbag seminar at the beginning of the semester to clarify expectations regarding their participation and contributions to the learning community.

Preliminary Schedule:

Invited Presenter(s) / Facilitator(s)

Jan 9
“Wanna Co-create?”—Orientation for Prospective Brownbag Seminar Participants

Individuals who are considering participation in the Brownbag Seminar for USF course credit are encouraged to attend this session in order to discuss the opportunity (& related demands) with students and faculty who participated in the seminar last semester. This discussion will be facilitated by Heather Curry (Dept. of Women’s Studies), a graduate assistant working with the Initiative, along with Dr. Uzzell (Dept. of Anthropology, Honors College), a faculty partner of the Initiative.
Heather Curry &
Doug Uzzell, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Zimmerman, B., Lindberg, C. & Plsek, P. (1998). A Complexity Science Primer. Edgeware: Insights from Complexity Science for Healthcare Leaders. Irving, Texas: VHI Inc. Retrievable at: http://www.plexusinstitute.org/services/E-Library/show.cfm?id=150

Revell, G. (August 2007). The Living City. Seed Magazine, 11, 54-60. Retrievable at: http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2007/08/

Heylighen, F., Cilliers, P. and Gershenson, C. (2007). Complexity and Philosophy, in J. Bogg and R. Geyer (Eds). Complexity, Science, and Society. Oxford: Radcliffe. Retrievable at: http://arxiv.org/ftp/cs/papers/0604/0604072.pdf

Jan 16
Complexity-Informed Approaches to Developing a Learning Community

This week will be the official “kick off” for the Brownbag Seminar for 2008. Faculty, students and other interested community members are invited and encouraged to attend in order to co-establish initial parameters for the “communiplexity” learning community.

Drs. Pinto and Steier will share their perspectives on the development of learning communities, as informed by their professional experiences working with a variety of such communities.

Dr. Pinto is a clinical child psychologist on the faculty of the Florida Mental Health Institute at USF, and the Complexity Research & Development Specialist at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. She has provided consultation to federally funded Systems of Care in communities across the country and coordinated a national initiative to increase knowledge and awareness regarding the institutional abuse of youth in residential treatment facilities. She has facilitated the co-creation of Infant Mental Health / Early Childhood learning communities in various states, as well as locally in Hillsborough county.

Dr. Steier is a Systems scholar-practitioner who is on the faculty of the Department of Communication at USF. He has, at USF, been the Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Programs which housed the Learning Communities. He has also been Carl Riggs Scientist in Residence at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) as well as a research fellow at MOSI's Center for Learning, exploring design issues in children's, organizational and community learning within an action research framework. He is a previous president of the American Society for Cybernetics, and a director of research and evaluation at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic.
Allison Pinto, Ph.D. &
Fred Steier, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Stevenson, B.W. & Hamilton, M. (2001). How does complexity inform community, how does community inform complexity? Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 3(2), 57 – 77.

Laszlo, K.C. & Laszlo, A. (2000). Learning to Become: Creating Evolutionary Learning Community through Evolutionary Systems Design. Retrieved fromhttp://www.creatinglearningcommunities.org/book/roots/laszlo2.htm

Jan 23
Working with our Local Communities in Earnest: Preliminary Efforts to Understand Hillsborough & Sarasota Counties as Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)

In 2007, two multi-disciplinary, multi-sector “communiplexity teams” of USF graduate students and community agency partners worked together to begin developing a complexity informed understanding of Hillsborough and Sarasota counties. These teams will describe the process that has evolved in each county and the learning that has been generated to date. A discussion of next steps will be facilitated by Dr. Teague, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Mental Health Law and Policy at the Florida Mental Health Institute, so that the ongoing efforts are further enriched by the multiple perspectives of Brownbag Seminar participants.
Members of 2007 HC & SRQ Communiplexity Teams

Gregory Teague, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Agar, M. (2004b). An anthropological problem, a complex solution. Human Organization, 63(4), 411 – 418.

Benbya, H. & McKelvey, B. 2007. “Using Pareto-based Science to Enhance Knowledge for Practical Relevance.” Presented at the Workshop on Organization Studies as Applied Science: The Generation and Use of Academic Knowledge about Organizations, Crete, July 7th–9th.

Macy, M.W. & Willer, R. (2000). From factors to actors: Computational sociology and agent-based modeling. Annual Review of Sociology. 28:143-66.

Jan 26 (Sat)
Using Storymodeling and the Cynefin Model to Understand and Support Communities as CAS

Dave Snowden is the Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, which focuses on the development of the theory and practice of sensemaking. Cognitive Edge exists to integrate academic thinking with practice in organisations throughout the world and operates on a network model working with Academics, Government, Commercial Organisations, NGOs and Independent Consultants.

Note time & place: Saturday afternoon @ community location TBD…further details will be provided
Dave Snowden

U.K. / Singapore

Proposed Readings:

Snowden, D.J., & Boone, M.E. (2007, November). A Leader’s Framework for Decision-Making. Harvard Business Review, pp. 3 – 9.

Kurtz, C & Snowden, D. (2003). The New Dynamics of Strategy: Sense making in a complex complicated world, IBM Systems Journal, 42(3), 462-483.

Jan 30
Complexity-Informed Approaches to Social Network Analysis for Cultivating Community Sustainability

These scholar-practitioners from Norway will be in town for the International Sunbelt Social Network Conference that is being held in St. Petersburg this year. They have agreed to travel across the bay to discuss their work with us in the Brownbag Seminar on this day. We will have an opportunity to link their ideas with the work of several of our own USF “stars” in complexity & social network analysis: Drs. Wolfe and Skvoretz, who presented at the Communiplexity seminar last semester.
John-Willy Bakke
& Tom-Erik Julsrud:
Telenor R&D, Oslo, Norway

Andreas Soyland: Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU)

Proposed Readings:

Wolfe, A. (February, 2003). Connecting the Dots without Forgetting the Circles. Keynote address presented at The Twenty-third Annual Sunbelt Social Network Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Retrieved from: http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe2003-ConnectingDots&Circles.pdf

Skvoretz, J. (2002). Complexity Theory and Models for Social Networks. Complexity 8: 47-55.

Feb 6
Sensemaking in Organizational Life

Note Time & Location: 3:30 – 6:00 p.m. in BSN 231

Dr. Weick is a Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and Psychology at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. He has written numerous books and articles on collective sensemaking under pressure, medical errors, handoffs in extreme events, high-reliability performance, improvisation and continuous change.

This session is part of a 5-day mini course hosted by the USF College of Business Administration, and runs from Feb 4 – Feb 8. All communiplexity brownbag participants are welcome and encouraged to attend as many of these sessions as they are able.
Karl Weick, Ph.D.
Northwestern U.

Proposed Readings:

Weick, K. E. (1998). Improvisation as a Mindset for Organizational Analysis. Organizational Science, 9(5), 543-555.

McDaniel, R. R., Jr., Jordan, M. E., & Fleeman, B. F. (2003). Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! A Complexity Science View of the Unexpected. Health Care Management Review, 28(3), 266-278.

Browning, L. & Boudès, T. (2005). The use of narrative to understand and respond to complexity: A comparative analysis of the Cynefin and Weickian models. Emergence: Complexity & Organization. 7(3), 32-39.

Feb 13
“Whose Business is Community Sustainability, Anyway?”

Much of the work on complexity & social systems has been developed in the field of business. Dr. Nord is a leading scholar in Organizational Development and a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Management in the College of Business Administration at USF. He will facilitate a discussion on the implications of complexity-informed scholarship and practice in the field of organizational studies for community sustainability at broader scales.
Walter Nord, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Foxon, T., Hammond, D., & Wells, J. (2005). Can Complexity Studies Advance Sustainability? Scaling in Natural & Social Systems. Retrieved at: http://santafe.edu/education/csss/csss05/papers/foxon_et_al._cssssf05.pdf

Maguire, S., McKelvey, B., Mirabeau, L. and Oztas, N. (2006), “Complexity science and organization studies”, Clegg, S., Hardy, C., Lawrence, T. and Nord, W. (Eds.), Handbook of Organization Studies, London, Sage, pp. 165-214.

Feb 20
A Capital Investments Approach to Communities as CAS

Dr. Gorski is a pediatrician by training and the Director of Program Impact and Innovation, as well as Research and Evaluation, at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Major Navarro (Ret., USAF) is a clinical social worker by training, a retired Air Force officer, a former Tampa police officer, and now the Director of Family Advocacy and Outreach at MacDill Air Force Base. Together, they will discuss their community-wide initiatives to support local children and families, using the framework of Capital Investments, which will be discussed from the complexity perspective.
Peter Gorski, M.D., M.P.A.

John Navarro, L.C.S.W., Major (Ret.), USAF

Proposed Readings:

Callaghan, E.G. & Colton, J. (2007). Building sustainable & resilient communities: a balancing of community capital. Environment, Development & Sustainability. Retrieved from: http://www.springerlink.com/content/b3177679w714677r/

Kernick, D.P. (2005). Facilitating resource decision making in public organizations drawing upon insights from complexity theory. Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 7(1), 23 – 28.

Feb 27
A “Maybe” Approach to Communities as CAS

Dr. Patton is an organizational development and evaluation consultant and the former President of the American Evaluation Association. He spent 18 years on the faculty of the University of Minnesota, serving as Director of the Minnesota Center for Social Research.
Dr. Patton will be presenting a plenary lecture on the morning of Monday, February 25 at the 21st Annual Research Conference on Systems of Care for Children’s Mental Health in Tampa. He will then be discussing local community initiatives from a complexity perspective at the Children’s Board that same afternoon at 1:30 and all are welcome to attend. The brownbag this week will be devoted to further discussion of the ideas raised in these conversations.
Michael Quinn Patton, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Westley, F., Zimmerman, B. & Patton, M.Q. (2006). Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed. Toronto: Random House Canada.

March 5
An Asset-Based Approach to Communities as CAS

Tim Dutton is the Executive Director of SCOPE, an innovative non-profit organization that exists to cultivate communities in Sarasota County. Susan Scott is the Deputy County Administrator in Sarasota County. Together they will describe the ways in which their ongoing collaborations with scholars and local community members have enabled the evolution of Asset-Based Community Development and citizen engagement in Sarasota County. Dr. Gibbons (Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs at USF) will facilitate a discussion of the ways in which these efforts contribute to community sustainability at multiple scales, as viewed from a complexity perspective.
Tim Dutton. M.S. &
Susan Scott

Mike Gibbons, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Mathie, A. & Cunningham, G. (2002). From Clients to Citizens: Asset-Based Community Development as a Strategy For Community-Driven Development. Occasional Papers of The Coady International Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.stfx.ca/institutes/coady/text/about_publications_occasional_citizens.html

Lichtenstein, B.B., Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., Seers, A, Orton, J.D. & Schreiber, C. (2006). Complexity Leadership Theory: An Interactive Perspective on Leading in Complex Adaptive Systems. Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 8(4), 2 – 12.

March 12
SPRING BREAK – no meeting

March 19
Where Are We Now? -- Reflecting on the Evolution of the Communiplexity Learning Community to Date…
Allison Pinto, Ph.D.,
Fred Steier, Ph.D. &
Doug Uzzell, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Sawyer, R.K. (2005). Social Emergence: Societies as Complex Adaptive Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

March 26
A Complexity Perspective on the University Community

A panel of university faculty members will share their perceptions of the USF community, informed by their experiences with various multi-disciplinary initiatives over the years. Dr. Gibbons is the former Chair of the Dept. of Government and International Affairs at USF, and has been involved in a variety of cross-disciplinary initiatives over the course of his tenure. Dr. Teague recently chaired the USF Research Council when it conducted a quantitative/qualitative study of faculty perceptions re: research support university-wide. Dr. Steier has been the Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Programs at USF, and has served on various committees relating to cross-disciplinary, cross-departmental and cross-sector efforts at USF.

Members of the brownbag seminar will also share their
“communiplexity position statements” with one another as a means of further cultivating the USF community as a CAS.

Mike Gibbons, Ph.D.
Greg Teague, Ph.D. &
Fred Steier, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Lohmann, S. (2006). The public research university as a complex adaptive system. Retrieved from: http://complexsystems.lri.fr/FinalReview/FILES/PDF/p88.pdf
Communiplexity Position Statements of Brownbag Seminar Participants

April 2
How the Arts Support Communities as CAS

Tim Dutton and Greg Teague will describe the ways in which they have become involved in collaborations with visual and performing arts communities in Sarasota, and how these efforts relate to community sustainability. Fred Steier will describe the systemic ideas he presented and worked with as part of the Daghdha Dance company's (Limerick, Ireland) recent performance/workshop, Gravity and Grace as part of their Framemakers: Choreography as an Aesthetic of Change series. Implications for integrating arts and sciences as a means of facilitating engagement and sensemaking in communities will be discussed.
Tim Dutton, M.P.A.
Greg Teague, Ph.D.
Fred Steier, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Lehrer, J. (December, 2007). The Future of Science…Is Art? Seed Magazine.

Galanter, P. (2002). What is Generative Art? Complexity Theory as a Context for Art Theory. Retrieved from: http://www.philipgalanter.com/downloads/ga2003_paper.pdf

Smith, Keri. (2007). The Guerilla Art Kit. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press.

April 9
How Architecture & Design Support Communities as CAS

The built and natural environments significantly influence the vitality of communities. Trent Green is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at USF and has been involved in a variety of local neighborhood-, city- and county-based design efforts. He will facilitate a discussion of the ways in which architecture and design (and architects and designers) can influence communities as complex adaptive systems.
Trent Green, M.Arch.

Proposed Readings:

Pearson, J. (2003). University/community design partnerships: Innovations in Practice. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press.

Moobela, C. (2005). From worst slum to best example of regeneration: Complexity in the regeneration of Hulme, Manchester. Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 7(1), 29 – 42.

Upitis, R. School Architecture and Complexity. Retrieved from: http://www.complexityandeducation.ualberta.ca/COMPLICITY1/pdfs/Complicity11d_Upitis.pdf

April 16
How Technology Influences Communities as CAS

Today’s discussion will focus on ways technology influences the development of communities as complex adaptive systems.

Dr. Neubauer is a former USF faculty member who is now teaching at Albany State University. His scholarship focuses on e-government, service oriented architectures, educational technologies, web-based multimedia, social network analysis, relational databases and complex systems. He will co-facilitate the discussion from Georgia by participating through internet technology.

Dr. Uzzell is a cultural anthropologist who has conducted ethnographic research in a variety of communities / cultures. He is also a psychotherapist with an appreciation of the ways in which minds and consciousness evolve in relationship, in context, and over time. These notions will be explored as brownbag seminar participants reflect on the ways in which technology seems to have affected the evolution of the communiplexity learning community and the co-generation of knowledge so far.
Bruce Neubauer, Ph.D.
Doug Uzzell, Ph.D.

Proposed Readings:

Miller, J.H. & Page, S.E. (2007). Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life (Princeton Studies in Complexity). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kochgovindan, S. & Vriend, N.J. Is the Study of Complex Adaptive Systems Going to Solve the Mystery of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand"? Retrievable at:

April 23
Where are We Now? -- Reflecting on the Evolution of the Communiplexity Learning Community to Date…
Allison Pinto, Ph.D.,
Fred Steier, Ph.D., &
Heather Curry

Proposed Readings: