Problematique and the Club of
Ken Bausch, PhD
Institute for 21st Century Agoras
The origins of the Club of
Rome can be traced to a
Earlier that year, Hasan had delivered a long paper in the Bellagio conference in Italy titled “The General Theory of Planning,” which was later published in a book edited by Erich Jantsch (1969) titled Perspectives on Planning. During his participation in the Bellagio conference, Hasan had met Aurelio Peccei, an Italian industrialist and philanthropist. Hasan had a good friend and collaborator Aleco Christakis who had a history of involvement with Constantine Doxiadis, the Ekistics movement, and the Delos Dialogues.
The triumvirate decided to
name this initiative The Club of
Hasan, and Aleco, aided by Erich Jantsch, put together the first
conceptualization of the global Problematique in the monumental first
proposal of the Club of Rome titled “The Predicament of Mankind”
(1970). With Aurelio making the
connections and paying the freight, Aleco trotted the globe from
The Predicament of Mankind, (for a review of the proposal visit http://sunsite.utk.edu/FINS/loversofdemocracy/Predicament.PTI.pdf ), was put together under the towering leadership of Hasan Ozbekhan, probably one of the best systems thinkers of the 20th century. It described very eloquently the predicament of mankind. It identified approximately 50 Continuous Critical Problems (CCPs), which on account of their strong interactions should not be addressed in a piecemeal fashion. Such problems as the ”pollution problem,” the “inner city problem,” the “poverty problem” the “starvation problem” the “nuclear proliferation problem,” the “population growth problem,” and so on, are strongly interconnected contributing to the emergence of a new entity called in the proposal the global Problematique. The concept and the name Problematique appeared for the first time in the Club of Rome (CoR) proposal. The proposal recognized and described the futility of addressing these problems in a piecemeal fashion, instead of addressing them as a system of problems. It proceeded to conceptualize and articulate very elegantly a philosophical, methodological, and institutional framework for penetrating and resolving the global Problematique.
Because no appropriate methodology was available in the early 70s for addressing the complexity and multidimensionality of the Problematique, the framework presented in the proposal was more like an architectural design than an engineering blueprint. Some readers of the proposal considered it an outstanding conceptual breakthrough, but others, especially the systems engineers of the 60s, found it lacking in methodological specificity and rigor.
The perceived lack of methodological rigor of the proposal contributed significantly in the decision of the Executive Committee of CoR to award, in the summer of 1971, a major grant to the systems dynamics group of MIT. This group, under the leadership of Jay Forester who was an electrical engineer by training and was a professor at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, had been working on developing the systems dynamics approach to the observation, explanation, and prediction of the dynamics of social systems. Forester had already applied the method to industrial and urban dynamics in the 60s, so it was easy for him to persuade the Executive Committee that it was appropriate to apply the method to world dynamics. The Executive Committee decided to sponsor the project on the development of the world dynamics model. The major outcome of this project was the production of the “world model” using the methodology of systems dynamics. The work and findings of this project culminated with the publication of the very popular book Limits to Growth in 1972 (Meadows, et al., 1972). The controversial nature of the findings reported in this book gave a lot of publicity and notoriety to the CoR.
Executive Committee made this grant award to MIT to develop the world model,
Hasan and Aleco resigned from the Club. They both felt that the systems dynamics
methodology, which was used for deriving an extrapolated future for the world
system to the year 2150, compromised the original intent of the CoR proposal
which was to discover and use a
methodology capable of engaging the stakeholders in a dialogical process with
sensitivity to their cultural situation and the praxis of their lives. They felt that the system dynamics
approach was perpetuating a paradigm of scientific elitism and social
engineering in designing social systems, instead of legitimizing the wisdom of
the people by engaging stakeholder in a dialogue for designing their
futures. Hasan joined the
Aleco working with John Warfield and many other colleagues, initially at the Academy for Contemporary Problems in Columbus, Ohio, and later in other academic institutions, has spent approximately 35 years of research, development, and testing in the arena to invent and apply the model and methodology that rendered the original architecture of the Club of Rome proposal usable and applicable in the field of practice.
The fruit of that research and practice is the Structured Dialogic Design Process (SDDP), which is set out in the book Harnessing Collective Wisdom and Power www.harnessingcollectivewisdom.com.
Christakis, A. N. (1988).
The Club of Rome revisited in: General
Systems. W. J. Reckmeyer (ed.),
International Society for the Systems Sciences, Vol. XXXI, pp. 35-38,
Christakis, A.N. and
Bausch, K.B. (2006). Harnessing Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future.
Doxiadis. C. A., (1968). Ekistics: An Introduction to the
Science of Human Settlements, Hutchinson of
Meadows D. H., Meadows D., and
Özbekhan, H. (1969). Towards a general theory of planning. In
Peccei A. (1969 ). The Chasm Ahead,