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1974

Conference Series on Social Catalysis

Notes on a proposed conference series under the auspices of Mankind 2000

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A first set of notes (1 to 5) was prepared on behalf of Mankind 2000 and discussed in Paris on in January 1974. The enclosed notes (6 to 8) represent the revision of the concept (under its provisional title) as presented. Notes 4 and 5 remain basically unchanged, and are included herewith. The notes were sent to the members of Mankind 2000 for comments and suggestions. A further meeting to consider these revised proposals was scheduled. Earlier suggestions to use the term "social engineering" had been rejected. The conference was to be organized by the Société Internationale des Conseillers de Synthèse (Paris).
Concept of the theme of the proposed conference
Details of nature of conference
Concept or the programme outline of the conference
Summary of organization of report
1. Summary article or papers: Dimensions of social catalysis
2. Summary article or papers: Mapping and tracking complex psychological structures.
3. Approaches to social catalysis.
-- 3.1. Conceptual structures and processes
-- 3.2. Information systems
-- 3.3. Social organizations and administrative structures
-- 3.4. Building and urban complexes
-- 3.5. Energy, water, transport and communication technologies
Preliminary draft outline of programme items of the proposed conference
1. Dimensions of social catalysis and social engineering
2. Mapping and tracking complex psychosocial structures, together with reference to supportive technologies
3. Approaches to social catalysis and social engineering and the supportive technologies required
-- 3.1 Conceptual structures and processes
-- 3.2 Information  systems
-- 3.3    Social organizations and administrative structures
-- 3.4 Building and urban complexes
-- 3.5. Energy, water, transport and communication technologies
4. Interaction between approaches
-- 4.1  Complementarity of unrelated project based on different approaches
-- 4.2    Systematic interaction between different approaches  within  the framework of a single project
-- 4.3    Possibilities of substituting one approach for  another


Concept of the theme of the proposed conference

1. It was agreed that the conference should address itself to those constructive approaches to social change which ware:

1.1. Non-directive: Namely forms of change which arenot originated as central directives to be implemented locally. 1.2. Non-manipulative: Namely forms of change which can be facilitated and encouraged rather than having to be imposed with some ulterior motive, whether beneficial or not. 1.3. Non-deterministic: Namely forms of change which are open-ended rather than involving the creation of a closed system. 1.4. Non-technocratic: Namely forcis of change which are particularly oriented to person-oriented rathen than system-oriented technology. Such technology should enable the person to grow in new ways natural to himself rather than require that he adapt to sophisticated i and elegant conceptions of how he should behave.

2. "Social engineering": After careful consideration of the conference title, it was agreed that "social engineering" although useful in that it implied a step-by-step methodical approach to social construction, had an unfortunate history which associated it with many of the points identified above as undesirable. The term "social construction" was held to be not sufficiently explicit.

A general discussion suggested that using an "engineering" model always implied an engineer and raised the question of intentions. There was also a 19th century connotation to this model (an "Eiffel tower" approach to social development). Other models which seemed more appropriate ware the chemical, the biological, and possibly the electronic.

2.1. The action and result oriented connotationsof "social engineering" are valuable. The implication that it la possible to identify, examine and restructure social relationships in a precise way, perhaps reminisof civil engineering, is refreshing. 2.2. The social engineering approach has a history however. It is closely related to the efforts to apply systems analysis to social problems. This approach was for example advocated in 1965 in Olaf Helmer's Rand Corporation report on "Social Technology". 2.3. This system application has not matched up to expectations in the USA. There is little evidence there of unambiguous successful application to social problems. Massive programs in which attempts to use it have been made have been judged failures (e.g. poverty, no baserenewal, Creek tourist industry, the Camelot project). 2.4. The usb of the systems concept, as advocated by the Rand Corporation, to solve social problems has also suffered fro" the errors and failures in the use of this concept in Vietnam. Much use was made of it there to investigate and "stabilize" the rural social system. 2.5. Such "failures" of the systems application should however be carefully interpreted. Some have been due to 2.6. The question is therefore how best to conceive of a social engineering approach which would not lay itself open to criticism of the above type. This is essential if Mankind 2000 is to be able to associate itself with any such project 2.7. The main weaknesses perceived in the approach by its opponents are, summarizing :
Directive features: It is important to draw attention to means of setting in motion social engineering projects of a non-directive decentralized or participative nature, Manipulative features: It is important to draw attention to those approaches to social engineering which are facultative rather than manipulative, whether or not the so-called manipulation is beneficial. Deterministic features: Any centralized plan must of necessity envisage a clearly determined end. In the case of some social problems the deterministic aspect of the approach way antagonize where an open-ended approach might encourage support. Social engineering should be equally applicable to closed and open systems. Technocratic features: The technocratic emphasis requiring dependence on high technology and highly specialized and esoteric quantitative skills should be counterbalanced by the presence of social engineering approaches which are more person oriented and only dependent on a low-level technology.

3. "Social catalysis": The biological and electronic models did not suggest any useful torn. The chemical model suggested "social catalysis". This suggest the notions of :

3.1. A passive agent facilitating changes inherent in the environment with which it is in contact. The agent does not itself deriveany inherent bonefit from the change which it makes possible. The agent, as opposed to the engineer, makes possible but is not manipulating to his own ends. Clearly the social catalyst must be designed, but its use is limited to facilitating. This constraint is a safeguard which may constitute the boot that society can do at the montent - in the spheres where any form of social reconstruction is being conceived. 3.2. Energizing role. The catalyst modifiesthe energy requirement to accomplish someend. It doesthiswithout supplying energy but just from the way it is constructed and the way it operates It erodes barriersto change. 3.3. Synthesis. By choosing a chemical model, the notion of synthesis is suggested. Catalysts are mainly used to achieve different forms of chemical synthesis. This is the notion of building up, building more complex, and achieving some measure of synergy. 3.4. Precision. The notion of objective rigour is retained, but mitigated by the notion that a given catalyst facilitates a wide variety of change.

To counterbalance to any possible interpretation of social engineering as directive, manipulative, deterministic or technocratic, it was suggested that the name of the conference should be modified to "social catalysis and social engineering". Social catalysis implies acceleration or facilitation of ongoing social processes. This may be used to achieve formation of beneficial relationships whore social engineering would be unacceptable. Social catalysis is therefore the chemical and biological (or possibly micro-level) complement to the social materials (or possibly macro-level) orientation of social engineering. The emphasis in both social engineering and social catalysis is on identifying key relationships and processes and determining where such relationships are lacking or inadequate, or where the processes are insufficient in terms of the requirement. Both are concerned with complex systems in which simplifying assumptions are dangerous. The meeting programme should therefore identify different types or levels of relationship susceptible to catalytic or engineering intervention. These might include :

4. No final decision was taken on the conference title. It was felt that other views should be obtained, in the light of the above suggestions.

5. The emphasis of the conference should be on bringing together people who are concertino with the conception and implementation of practical projects for social change rather than models or explanations of processes.

6. The focus of papers should be on the design of "devices" which would catalyse or result in social change. The concern of the conference should be with how to select or, if necessary create, thenecessary device to meet the constraints of aparticular type of social change.

7. The concern should be primarily with devices which can be made availableto berun by acommunity of users for their own benefit, rather than devices which when implemented have to be run as a system by aclosed group of exports.

8. The conference programme attempts to bridge a wide range of approaches to social change. If successful, the interaction between normally antagonistic schools of thought would be vary valuable. If, for practical reasons, the range of topics is too great, any cuts should not be based on eliminating schools of thought or approaches but rather in the manner in which the conference time is used. Manypapers could be presented very briefly rathen than at lenght, to permitthe major portion of time to be devoted to discussion. General review papers could be commissioned for some areas.

9. The report of the conference should be seen as a major item -- a device which itself should give rise to social change. This concern should be to havepapers which supply "blueprints" for practical projects which could be implemented in many countries, possibly after adaptation.

Details of nature of conference

1. Location: Such a meeting to be hold in Paris or environment every two years approximately. Setting to becarefully chosen to reflect theconcernsof theorganizers and facilitate creative discussion.

2. Data: June1975(tentative)

3. Report data:Nanuscripts to beprepared by 1January 1975.

4. Number of participants: ISO - 200.

5. Next organizing meeting: 6 March 1974, Paris.

6. The conference should not be an occasion for reading papers which have been prepared in written form by participants.

7. Papers will be prepared and circulated well before the conference in the form of a pre-conference report. Mankind 2000 will be responable for the editorial work and the collection of the papers, but not for publication costs.

8. The conference itself will take placein a carefully chosen setting. which will facilitate dialogue and small-group processes amongst participants. Aside from the choice of setting, the challenge to the organizers will be to provide a facilitative mechanism which enables small-groups to come together on a wide variety of topics as they emerge during the conference period. The Société Internationale des Conseillers de Synthèse will be responsible for the organization of the meeting.

9. The conference setting should provide suitable facilities for display of maquettes and models illustrating points made in the papers and acting as a catalyst to discussion. The opportunity should also be provided forfilm and other presentations to those interested. Such presentations should not be madein plenary sessions, of which thereshould be very few.

10. An important feature of the conference would be the opportunity to participate in arranged visits to different example of social catalysts, whether in theform of building complexes, community centres, or other approaches which lend themselves to exhibition in this way.

11. It is recognizedthat some people would only wish to prepare for inclusion in the report, otherswould only wish to participate in the discussions, others would only wish to beexposed to the audio-visual displays, and others would be more especially interested in the external visits. There would a however be a relatively high degree of overlap between these categories.

12. The distinction between the categories of "participant" (see last point) would be used as a means of controlling conference participation. for example, it is recognized that some group want to present their achievements and it would be difficult to exclude them even though their achievements are non-achievements or failures in terms of the goals of the organizers. The approach would be either to accept their papers for circulation and not extend invitations or alternatively to only extend invitations to the meeting. The aim is to avoid clogging the meeting with unhelpful examples whilst leaving participants to take up whatever examples they wish in small group sessions of their own conception. Policy in the connection must be carefully considered.

Concept or the programme outline of the conference

N.8. The term"social catalysis" will be used in the following note although some more suitable term may be selected later.

Given the caraful distinction between the papers in the report and the actual discussion at the meeting, the following list of points may be thought of as the "contents page" of the report rather than the "agenda" of themeeting. The latter would bo much more discussion oriented within the evolving framework of small groups, responding to issues as they emerge and "inspired" by the materials presented in the report, the displays and the visits. The report is also conceived as having its own lifeafter the meeting - perhapsserving as material for other meetings but in any case to be published to achieve a wider distribution.

Given that the mix of participants actually present in Paris may of necassity not cover thewhole fiald of social catalysis, it is important that the report should provide such coverage, oven if some sections ore only covered by a summary article. Only by this juxtaposition of approaches can their interrelationship be seen and the occasions when ono should use ono rather than another. The summary article would be mainly used to cover the high-powered projects which are welldescribed elsewhere and should attempt to drawattention to any general principles which have emerged and should not focus on particular projects.

Preference should bo given to papers which arguefromworking examples to general principles, rather than those which are only descriptive or only theoretical. Of greatest utility are papers which present "generalized blueprints" which can bewidely used within communities.

Summary of organization of report

NB: An amplified description of the papers under each heading has been given in Note4. The numbering system and emphasis has been modified, but the difference is evident from the headings below.

1. Summary article or papers: Dimensions of social catalysis

2. Summary article or papers: Mapping and tracking complex psychological structures.

3. Approaches to social catalysis.

3.1. Conceptual structures and processes

3.1.1. Papers :Low resource projects 3.1.2. Papers :Catalytic products (agents/r???/means) 3.1.3. Summary article :Centralized, closed, high-resource projects 3.1.4. Summary article: Decentralized, open, high-resource projects

3.2. Information systems

3.2.1. Papers :Low resource informationsystems 3.2.2. Papers :Catalytic products 3.2.3. Summaryarticle :Centralized, closed, high-resource systems 3.2.4. Summary article : Decentralize, open, high-resource information systems

3.3. Social organizations and administrative structures.

3.3.1.: Papers: Low resource organizational structures 3.3.2. Papers: Catalytic products 3.3.3. Summary article: Centralized, closed,, high-resource organizational structures 3.3.4. Summary article: Decentralized, open, high-resource organizational structures

3.4. Building and urban complexes

3.4.1. Papers: Low resource projects 3.4.2. Papers: Catalytic products 3.4.3. Summary article: Centralized, closed, high-resource: projects 3.4.4. Papers or summary article: Decentralized, open, highresource projects .

3.5. Energy, water, transport and communication technologies

3.5.1. Summary article or papers: Low resource technologies 3.5.2. Summary article or papers: Catalytic products 3.5.3. Summary article: Centralized, closed, high-resource projects 3.5.4. Summary article :Decentralized, open, high-resource projects

Summary article orpapers: Interaction between social catalysis approaches.

Preliminary draft outline of programme items of the proposed conference

1. Dimensions of social catalysis and social engineering.

This section would include general papers and discussion on thescope and general principles of social catalysis and social engineering; their relationship to and distinction from other planning and policy disciplines.

2. Mapping and tracking complex psychosocial structures, together with reference to supportive technologies.

This section would contain papers which suggest and describe practical means of looking at complex psychosocial structures, mapping them to permitmeaningful discussion and the isolation of key areas in which structural change might bo fruitful and have multiplier effects. Given the level of complexity which must be dealt with, papers on technologies which facilitate this tracking, mapping, consensus formation and decision process would also bo included here.

3. Approaches to social catalysis and social engineering and the supportive technologies required.

This major section would be subdivided by type of social, structure and within that by the nature of the project. The latter system of subdivisions is repeated for each type of social structure. The papers would be action and project oriented. The papers and discussion would focus on what could be done and how to go about doing it rather than attempting to supply elegant theoretical models to explain or justify the action.

3.1 Conceptual structures and processes

This sub-section would be concerned with projects and procedures which result in beneficial change to conceptual, belief, attitudinal and value structures.

3.1.1 Centralized, closed, high-resource projects: The projects covered here would, typically, ba those elaborated by a large (usually governmental) agency or group of agencies to mobilize and direct attitudes and resources in response to some particular threat. Examples are: energy conservation campaigns, development aid campaigns, road accident campaigns, anti-litter campaigns. Participants :from government agencies withsuch concerns.

3.1.2 Decentralized, open, high-resource projects: The projects covered hero would be those elaborated on a participative basis, often on the initiative of large governmental agencies, and involving the collaboration of amultitude of nongovernmental and business groups as a mutually reinforcing network of action-oriented social actors. Examples are:disaster relief campaigns, anti-discriminanation campaigns. Participants:organizers and planners of such campaigns.

3.1.3 Low resource projects: This would cover both centralized and decentralized projects to change attitudes on particular issues. Typical itwould be concerned with the design of projects to be undertakenby thesmaller or less organized interest groups possibly to draw attention to emerging problems before they warrant appreaches of type 3.1.1 or 3.1.2, Examples are: womens rights, welfare of blind. Participants : organizers and planners of action in such areas having some ability to generalize from their experience; typically representatives of minority action groups

3.1.4 Catalytic products: The papers here would be concerned with the selection and design of products which could be sold or disseminated through a social systemsuch that by theiruse andwithou any directive explanation, they facilitate the adoption a beneficial new attitudes and modes of action. Examples are: new games whose rules encourage new understanding of social relationships, information and data display devices which facilitate perception across conventional category boundaries.

3.2 Information systems

This sub-section would be concerned with the design of information systems whose function is to facilitate the maintenance and formation of beneficial relationships, particularly as an aid to. action programmes.

3.2.1 Centralized, closed, high-resource systems: The information systems covered hero would, typically, be those elaborated by a large (usually governmental) agency or group of agencies to enable them to plan and act more effectively in the face of the problems for which they are mandated. Examples are: environmental information systems. Participants: designers and implementers of such systems.

3.2.2 Decentralized, open, high-resource information systems: The information systems covered here would be these elaborated by a network of agencies and organizations in such a way that a wide range of individuals and organizations could be brought into relationship by the information they store and retrieve. Examples are:ARPA Data Network, inter-university computer networks.

3.2.3 Low resource information systems: The papers hero would be concerned with "intermediate technology" information systems which can be designed and implemented by smaller groups. Examples are: newsletter systems on specific topics, chain letters or telephoning strategies. Participants: people capable of generalizing from experience in this area or suggesting new systems of this type.

3.2.4 Catalytic products: The papers here would be concerned with thedesign of information gadgets which facilitatenew flows of information likely to counteract any abuse of existing information systems. Examples are: systems facilitating communication from audience to podium or between participants at a meeting (without passing via the podium), systems bringing individuals or organizations together on the basis of self defined interests and not some externally imposed set of categories.

3.3 Social organizations and administrative structures.

This sub-section would be concerned with the design of new styles of organization which would facilitate the organized interaction of people, groups or number organizations in situations or under conditions in which existing forms of organization are not viable.

3.3.1 Centralized, closed, high-resource organizational structures: The organizations dealt with here would, typically, be large manufacturing or research enterprises in which there is a problem of providing a satisfactory working environment for workers engaged in exceptionally monotonous assembly-line tasks or alternatively for creative invididuals who do not function well in a excessively structured environment. Participants: personnel managers and consultants of enterprises responding creatively to this challenge (e.g. Phillips, Volvo).

3.3.2 Decentralized, open, high-resource organizational structures: The papershere should cover the design and improvement of inter-organizational systemswithin which there is a fairly high degree of individual mobility. Examples are: inter-university system, inter-think-tank system, kibbutzim network, youth hostel network. Participants: individuals and organizations attempting to promote or implement such organizational systems.

3.3.3 Low resource organizational structures: The papers here would be concerned with blue prints for the Croatian of "minimal institutions" of various kinds. Typically such structures would be useful at the gross-roots, community level or in inter-linking bodies or individuals in situations where formalized relationships ara not possible. Examples are: "invisible" academicand political colleges, organization substitutes (meetings, demonstrations), various kinds of "peoples" organizations, communes.

3.3.4 Catalytic products: The papers here should cover the conception and design of productswhich encourage and facilitate the creation of no"organizational structures. Examples are :organizational directories designed to function asorganizational "marriage brokers", computer software package to permit computerized information services to bo set up to automate any ouch brokerage service.

3.4 Building and urban complexes

3.4.1 Centralized, closed, high-resource projects: The projects dealt with here would bo, typically, those originated and/or financed by large government and private enterprise consorts (in which plans are drawn up by a, centralized group using all the necessary technical expertise). The aims of such projects are wall-defined and easily justified in terms of, the economic interests of the region and the socio-economic needs of the users of the building complex. Examples are: university cities (e.g. in Russia, Japan), urban developments, newcapital cities (e.g. Brazilia).

3.4.2 Decentralized, open, high-resource projects: The papers here would cover projects, usually originated by government agencies, to stimulate with financial support the construction of building complexes of social rather than economic value. (Plans are drawn up through an extensive consultative process to ensure that the needs of a very wide variety of user are satisfied). The aims of such projects are broadly and loosely defined in qualitative rather than quantitative terns. Examples are: community centres, redevelopment to create urban shopping/meeting/entertainment areas, community effort to revivify old, but architecturally interesting, town centres.

3.4.3 Low resource projects: The papers here would be concerned with the types of project which can be undertaken with the application of minimum funding to restructure and design existing buildings to serve new socially beneficial functions. Examples are: community centres, meeting halls, multi- association office and meeting centres, old age homes, communes, playgrounds, youth hostels.

3.4.4 Catalytic products: The products covered here would be those which enable wider sectors of the population to produce buildings at lower cost. The papers would be designed to draw attention to the types of product which if produced would help to eliminate barriers to socially needed construction. Examples are :geodesic dome, new joining devices, and other products which could usefully be made available to villages in developing countries to improve housing quality and ease of construction from low cost materials.

3.5 Energy, water, transport and communication technologies

3.5.1 Centralized,closed, high-resource projects: The projects dealt with here would be these originated by largegovernment and private enterprise consortia (in which plans aredrawn up by a centralized group using all the necessary technical expertise). The reasonsfor developing and making available the technology are well- defined and easily justified in termsof the economic interests of the region and the socio-economic needs of the users. Examples are: dams and irrigation systems, inter-regional ronds, bridges.

3.5.2 Decentralized, open, high-resource projects: The papers here would cover projects usually originated by government agencies to stimulate development of a particular technology by the communities in the region. The success of such project depends loss on the government seed-funding and more on community recognition of a need justifying joint action and commitment. Examples are: community construction of dams; irrigation and road systems, community radio/TV service, community newspaper.

3.5.3 Low resource technologies: The technologies dealt with here are increasingly called "intermediate". The papers would identify new technologies of this typo and ways of making themavailableto the areas in which they are needed. A principal characteristicof those technologies is that they can be put into effect with little need for external materials. It is therefore the know-how, rather than a product which is required. Examples are: water-carrying devices, wind-power devices, water-recirculation techniques.

3.5.4 Catalytic products: The products covered here would be those which could usefully be made available in under-developed areas to stimulate community development of low-resourcetechnologies. Someof these products may be technically sophisticated but they should not be costly to obtain or maintain. Examples are :solar-power devices, new typos of plough, simple duplicating/printing devices, low-cost coment substitutes to improve mud-based house construction.

4. Interaction between approaches

The purpose of the papers in this section would be to clarify the relationship and interdependence of the approaches identified in the individual sub-sections of section 3.

4.1 Complementarity of unrelated project based on different approaches: The papers here would draw attention to the mutually reinforcing effects of projects focusing on different types of structure, from the concrete to the conceptual. Whilst each project may be envisaged and implemented and implemented in isolation, it is the resultant effect on society which isof interest to the proponents of each of them.

4.2 Systematic interaction between different approaches within the framework of a single project: The papers here would cover the. manner in which a project must ensure the interrelationship of different, and seemingly incompatible aspects - conceptual, informational, organizational, etc.

4.3 Possibilities of substituting one approach for another. To achieve the same ends, the social change agent may choose one of several means. The papers here would examine the ways in .which, for example, the establishment of an information system can be made to substitute for the creation of an organization Similarly, under some conditions of mutual suspicion it may be more useful to construct abuilding within which different groups have neighbouring offices (permitting them to interact informally) rathen than to attempt vainly to establish an organization in which they would not wish to interact formally.

Complementary forms of innovation Complementary forms of innovation
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