Desert Conversation Community



Values &

The Process

About the ISI

About the DCC

The Desert Conversation Community is a collaborative program of the International Systems Institute and the Aurora Now Foundation to provide action research and serviceable knowledge in the field of social systems design, by serving as the environment for the ISI research team on the Design of Healthy and Authentic Community.

ISI Team Announcement
(published in ISI Conversations Newsletter, June, 2001. Note the dates of the pilot event have since changed)

Team H: The Design of Healthy and Authentic Community (Formerly Team A)
Sherryl Stalinski, Chair
A Desert Conversation Community

Team H (Formerly Team A: HAC) has, for the past two years, collaborated our efforts with Team D (Evolutionary Learning Community) chaired by Alexander & Kathia Laszlo. Our efforts have focused on the inclusion of non-scholars in our inquiry efforts, and those contributions have proven invaluable. What seems to have evolved quite organically is what Bela H. Banathy refers to as a "Level B" design community. (1996, ch. 6). Where he defines a design enculturation process as beginning at "Level A," specifically in academia and R&D, the "Level B' communities evolve a design culture through the integration of the "general populations" of Levels C & D, informed by the scholarly research and insight of Level A efforts.

This year, Team H announces a pilot Conversation event to be held in Tucson, Arizona to coincide with the 2001 ACC in Pacific Grove. We invite members of the education community (students and teachers), community stakeholders and others who are interested in engaging in the process of design, and specifically the design of intentional, healthy, authentic communities. The team also remains open to those who are participants at Level A within the systems research community. We have tentatively set October 25-29 as the dates of our first event, likely preceeded by 3-4 evening of introductory and preparatory sessions (which would not be required for out of town participants). This timing will enable us to provide our larger ACC with a team report and updates via phone and the Internet in order to facilitate our ongoing collaboration both with ISI and its Asilomar Conversation Community.

As our inaugural, pilot conversation effort, Team H, via a Desert Conversation Community, hopes to explore ways in which conversation can take place beyond abstract or conceptual verbal generative and strategic dialogue. Aleco Christakis has shared with ISI members the Greek word for conversation as being "syzitisis"--"searching together." His contribution provides depth and breadth to the idea and meaning of the conversation process by not limiting the process to an exchange of words in the joint creation of meaning. In our exploration of "culture" in 1999, the combined teams A&D integrated a variety of supportive experiential conversation "tools" such as co-created art, music, a trip to an equine sanctuary in the exploration of stewardship, and discussed other ways cultures expressed and experienced themselves, including food and meals, dance, and its relationship with the natural world. This year, as our inquiry continues, we hope to explore the idea of the conversation process as "beyond dialogue" by further utilizing these and other experiential tools as a means of expressing of a community's evolving "demosophia" (wisdom of the people). More specifically, we are hoping to engage in a conversation-guided process that will seek to experience and convey our team's evolving demosophia through consciously co-created cultural expression.

In order to ensure the success of a DCC effort, the DCC will remain a program of the ISI in order to remain informed by its established conversation communities. Additionally, inclusion will subject to certain criteria for participation, including:

  • A commitment to the ISI propositions that underlie social systems design,
  • A commitment to the conversation process and the values expressed in Bela's "proposed manifesto" for a design community,
  • and expressed understanding of the concept of stewardship and commitment to active participation as a community steward.

For information, contact Sherryl Stalinski: phone (520) 578-2801 or email

About the facilitator:
Sherryl Stalinski, M.A., is a research Fellow of the ISI, and Executive Director of the Aurora Now Foundation. She is a Vice President of ARC Worldwide, an international leadership training and personal development seminar and consulting organization. She has chaired the ISI team on the Design of Healthy and Authentic Community for three years.

To register, or to request more information, e-mail Sherryl at
or phone her at (520) 578-2801.

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