Making Futures 2021

Resilience Through Leadership and Organisational Form

The seventh edition of our Making Futures biennial international research conference will be held on 16th September 2021.

Professor Cameron Tonkinwise

Professor of Design Studies at the University of Technology Sydney| Research Director of the Design Innovation Research Centre|

Take Care, It’s not Complex

Design arose out of the effort to ‘manage’ the craft of making, pursuing greater quantity of the reliably identical. Design created visual plans of what was to be made so that the task of making could be analysed in the etymological sense of 'pulled apart' or 'componentized'. We now know the consequence of this command-and-control strategy; the craft of making was alienated from the local, embodied knowledge of craftspeople, the volume of output it facilitates has resulted in unintended consequences and those consequences have scales and interrelations that outstrip command-and-control designed responses.

This presentation will look at a dangerous way of framing this situation. Many exponents of agile and adaptive leadership characterize this world of unintended consequences in terms of complexity. This means that for such exponents, you cannot predict or even aspire to any particular different situation. For them, the task is one of ‘riding the rapids.’ This sounds like crafting a way through complexity. But it is instead a way of convincing everyone to accept the status quo. This presentation, drawing on Transition Design, will outline what craft leadership should look like. It starts by resisting the idea that all our challenges are complex ones. Most are, or should be framed as being, within the reach of the skills of craftspeople.


Cameron is the Professor of Design Studies and the Research Director of the Social Design Researcher at the University of Technology Sydney where he also teaches Service Design and Social Design. He has previously been Director of Doctoral Studies at Carnegie Mellon University School of Design and Co-Chair of the Tishman Environment and Design Centre at The New School. While at CMU, Cameron worked with Terry Irwin and Gideon Kossoff on the development of Transition Design - design-enabled systems-level change toward more diversely equitable societies - research he continues at UTS in the context of the transition to distributed energy systems and more inclusive financial services.