Lugano Summer School


Continuing Education in Systems Thinking

Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI), Lugano, Switzerland

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Lugano with its hallmark, Mount San Salvatore


Note: The Summer School has ceased operations.

No further Doctoral and Postdoctoral Summer Schools or other events are planned.

(See the "Announcements" page)


THE AIM – Continuing Education in Systems Thinking:  The Lugano Summer School of Systems Design (LSS) offers people interested in contemporary systems thinking and systems methodologies a unique occasion of continuing education. It addresses researchers and practitioners from different countries and from various professional fields such as business and public sector management, information systems design, industrial and systems engineering, environmental management, operational research, consultancy, public policy analysis, social planning, evaluation research, and others. The School was founded in 2001 by Werner Ulrich, one of the pioneers of Critical Systems Thinking, in cooperation with the University of Italian Switzerland (USI, Università della Svizzera italiana) in Lugano and a distinguished international Faculty. The School is hosted by USI's Faculty of Economics.

THE NAME – Summer School of "Systems Design":  Since its inception in 2001, the Lugano Summer School of Systems Design has earned itself a good name and has indeed become a brand name for continuing education in contemporary systems thinking. Occasionally, however, the reference to "system design" in the School's name may cause some misunderstandings, as systems design is also a technical concept used by the traditions of systems engineering and modeling. As understood by the Lugano Summer School, systems design encompasses much more than techniques of systems modeling and engineering; it stands for an attitude of reflective practice that is informed by systems thinking and practical philosophy and which seeks to deal with situations of professional intervention in a comprehensive, participatory and self-critical manner. The basic idea is that it is useful to understand such situations in terms of the design of whole systems rather than of problem solving only. Systems design is about achieving improvement in situations of complexity, uncertainty, and conflict. It involves rational analysis and inquiry as well as ethical reflection and discourse. The Summer School will focus each year on a small number of selected approaches to systems design and will try to build a bridge between them. The aim is not only to increase the problem-solving capabilities of participants but also to help them in becoming reflective researchers and professionals.

THE LOCATION – Lugano, Switzerland:  Lugano is an elegant and charming small city of international repute in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, on the southern slopes of the Alps. The extraordinary beauty of its natural environment as well as its Mediterranean flair and climate, along with its central situation in Europe, make it a perfect place for an international summer school – an ideal place for studying as well as for relaxing and traveling.

THE UNIVERSITY – A new international study place:   The University of Italian Switzerland – its Italian name is Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) – was opened in 1996 and has four Faculties: the Academy of Architecture, the Faculty of Communication Sciences, the Faculty of Economics, and the Faculty of Informatics. (There is also an organizationally separate Faculty of Theology.) In addition to the main campus in Lugano, there is a small second campus in Mendrisio, where the Academy of Architecture is located. USI is a small but rapidly developing, international place to study; courses are offered in Italian, German, French, and English language.

THE CONTENT – Reflective Systems Practice:  The focus of the Summer School's current educational offers is on "soft" (interpretive) and "critical" (self-reflective and emancipatory) systems thinking with a view to promoting reflective professional practice. Participants get an opportunity for learning about major contemporary systems approaches such as Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) and Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) directly from their originators. Other approaches may be included in the program and will then equally be taught by distinguished specialists. Related topics of particular interest are reflective research practice and professional ethics.

THE FORMAT – Doctoral and Postdoctoral Summer Schools / Graduate Summer Schools / Young Researchers' Conferences:  According to the specific aims, the events of the Summer School may adopt different formats.

For examples of past Summer Schools events, see the "Academic Program" page of this site.

Instructors  The instructors of all courses and presentations are experienced academic teachers who are well-known researchers and authors in their fields of teaching (see "Faculty" page).

Collaboration with Partner Universities  The School welcomes collaboration with institutional partners from other countries. If you are an instructor or administrator of an academic institution that might be interested in offering your students and staff participation in the Lugano Summer School, please contact the School Director at the address given in the "Contact" page. Customized forms of events tailored to your specific interests are conceivable.

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