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This material derives from original work in 1995 by Gordon Dyer, then Senior Lecturer at the Open University. He converted his material in 2001 to the form of an e-learning module for use by the i10 Unversity Consortium in the East of England to meet the needs of social enterprises which include financial objectives.     He has now further adapted the material to meet a wider definition of  social enterpise.

The College of Exploration is making this course on Social Systems Design freely available on its website at
the request of the the author Gordon Dyer. The course content was handed to Peter Tuddenham, co-founder of the College of Exploration, by Gordon Dyer at a meeting in East Anglia, England in July of 2016.

Before joining the academic community Gordon Dyer served for 26 years in the Royal Air Force retiring with the rank of Wing Commander.  From 1965-1970 he was based at Boscombe Down, the United Kingdom’s flight test establishment where he managed a specially-equipped “flying laboratory” Comet and carried out world-wide and trans-polar flight trials on avionic systems for new RAF and civil aircraft, including the Concord.

In 1978, he joined the UK Open University (OU) Faculty of Technology based in London, with special interest in systems.   He contributed to several courses produced by the Systems Department:  writing course and examination materials, and acting as exam and course team chair.  He has been a regular attendee at International Federation for Systems Research and International Systems Institute conversations for 25 years, and was an early collaborator with Bela Banathy in his research on conversation as a route to social systems design.  Gordon has some 50 published papers/ articles/ book chapters, primarily in these areas. 

Appointed  to the Directorate for the OU in East Anglia he was tenured as Senior Lecturer till retirement from this post in 1999.  During 1986-7 he also held the post of Director of the Open University Centre for Continuing Education, an incubator for the development of new programme areas. Has taught courses offered by both the Open University Business School and Faculty of Technology, and has considerable experience in using CMC and online tuition methods.  Following retirement from full-time employment he continued with consultancy and teaching contracts with the OU until 2007.  One outcome from this was the on-line module on creating the future path for any small social unit.

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His assumption in offering this e-learning module is that you are involved in a social unit which could operate in a more effective way.    By "effective" he means that, in addition to meeting its primary objectives, the group:

  • demonstrates by its actions the ideals and common values of all members, thereby encouraging them to work collaboratively with each other
  • encourages members to fully engage in group processes, or to the extent that suits them
  • is responsive to changes in its environment  and to possible contributions of new members, and which
  • takes a proactive approach to developing its future directions in a way which exploits the maximum creative potential of all its members.

The method described here is intended to apply to any kind of relatively small social unit: beginning with a family, and then extending to a club, institute, association, team, working group. In can apply to any context and any enterprise e.g charitable, recreational, health and social welfare, and spiritual.   Because of this wide range we will use the term "social enterprise".

We shall explore a way of capturing ideals and common values of those involved with you within the social enterprise, so that members feel motivated through having the opportunity to contribute to their maximum potential.  In short we are looking for a way of designing a social system.

This is not designing some kind of utopia - he is not an idealist.  But there is no reason why we should not keep our aspirations and ideals in mind as we envision a better future.  The module provides a practical way of proceeding, drawing on methods from a new field of social system design (SSD). Underpinning this is a core value, which sees it essential that all members of the social unit recognise their interdependence with others, and that this should inform the consideration, and behaviour they display, during the on-going design process and in practical action.

A Declaration of Interdependence, which community members develop collectively, is a key part of the process, along with a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Such a Bill, which also continuously evolves, is a mechanism to ensure that everyone in the community has the opportunity to achieve their agreed rights, but also to recognise their responsibilities towards others.

Q. You have seen reference to similar styled documents before, but what seems different about this Declaration and Bill, and why might this be?

[See my response here]