Researchers from Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) visited the IIASA on 11th and 12th July to explore tools that take a whole systems approach to the global risks we face.  

IIASA - CSER workshop people and patterns © IIASA


Paul Ingram is a Senior Research Associate at CSER, who has formerly led the British American Security Information Council, hosted the BASIC Trident Commission of 2011-14 and formulated in 2018 the Stepping Stones Approach that is the basis behind the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament. Sarah Woods is a Visitor to CSER (April 2023 to January 2024).  She is an award-winning writer and creative systems thinker. She’s Associate Professor at the Denmark National School for Performing Arts, a 2023 Fulbright Scholar, founder of 'Artists In Exile', and has contributed to several BBC radio 4 productions.

Highlight of this visit was a three-hour long ‘People and Patterns’ workshop which focussed on the dominant narratives, current systems (e.g., energy, food, defense, technologies), underlying paradigms, how they re-enforce each other, and are exacerbating global catastrophic risks. This led to a discussion about the alternative narratives, systems, and paradigms to safeguard our collective futures and how they can emerge amidst ongoing crises. CSER researchers emphasized an ability to operate inclusively with a wide variety of perspectives, including those we may disagree with as a key system thinking attribute to overcome the systemic crises.

This workshop was enthusiastically attended by around 15 researchers at the various stages of their career. As they represented different IIASA programs and bought their respective insights to the discussion, it significantly enriched CSER researchers’ attempts to map systems and underlying patterns behind the global risks we face. This workshop was followed by smaller meetings to discuss specific research ideas and possible collaborations.

This visit was initiated and facilitated by the co-ordination team of IIASA’s Transformation within Reach (TwR) initiative.


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