Conversations originated as an alternative to traditional conferences, from the insight that most of the benefit for participants resulted from the discussions and conversations with one another rather than from the formal content or presentations. The initial format for the Fuschl Conversations was built around Social Systems Design, as espoused by Bela H. Banathy. He defined a conversation as:
- a collectively guided disciplined inquiry
- an exploration of issues of social/societal significance
- engaged by scholarly practitioners in self-organized teams
- who selects a theme for their conversation
- which is initiated in the course of a preparation phase that leads to an intensive face-to-face learning phase.
In the Fuschl Conversation by tradition four to five teams with five to seven participants each discuss different, but related topics. The teams share their findings and participants 'visit' other teams.
The 2008 Fuschl Conversation from 29 March to 3 April had 23 participants from eleven countries world-wide. The topics (and thus the teams) were:
- basic concepts of systems sciences
- the trajectory of systems research and practice
- disseminating, accessing and communicating systems knowledge
- quality and excellence in systems research.
Besides the purely scientific endeavour Fuschl also proves to be a deeply human experience freely discussing topics, opinions etc; as one participant said: "When you leave Fuschl, you are a different person."
Initial results of Fuschl will be documented on IFSR's Web site in August 2008. In November 2008 the proceedings will be available in hard-copy form and also on IFSR's Web site. Proceedings of previous Conversations can also be found there.
IFSR secretary general and Fuschl 2008 conference chair
J. Kepler University Linz, Austria