Social Cybernetics: Week Two

Here is a recording of our second seminar on Social Cybernetics, with Professor Raul Espejo. The reading for this week was Raul’s ‘What is Systemic Thinking’. Also note that his paper on the ‘Viable System Model’ is expected reading across the course. All articles for the course can be found here.

This week we discussed, among other things, the integration of the informational and operational domains, recursive organisations, voluntarism vs. determinism, the ‘law of requisite variety’ and the significance of constraints to any organisational system. As before, we tried to get to grips with the different levels of abstraction that the model assumes. Raul’s slides can be downloaded from here and will be especially useful this week because much of our discussion referred to the ‘black box’ model of organisation that Raul introduces.

It’s hard to grasp at times if you are not familiar with organisational theory, but is proving to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking series of seminars and a useful way into understanding this influential area of social science. It’s also great to meet new people who are attending from London and Leicester.

Our next seminar will be on February 18th, 7-9pm, and the reading for that is ‘Good Cybernetics is a Must in Policy Processes’.  Anyone is welcome to attend.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below in the comments box.

Social Cybernetics and the Social Science Centre, Lincoln

The Social Science Centre, Lincoln is running a module on Social Cybernetics – an approach to effective self-organisation of management and other systems through networks and structures that promote autonomy among actors, leading to identity formation and the co-creation of social value.

The module will be facilitated by Professor Raul Espejo, a world-authority in the field and the current Director-General of the World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics.  Raul was a member of a team in Chile in the 1970s that worked on the Project Cybersyn, and attempt to link socialist planning with technology enabled social communications and policy processes.

The module is free of charge.

The module will begin on Thursday 21st of January  from 7-9 pm and then every two weeks until Wednesday the 16th of March. The venue for the module is the Involve Centre, 12 Mint Lane Lincoln LN1 1UD.

If you would like to attend the course please contact

Course outline

Key concepts to explore in the module include:

  • Purpose, feedback, homeostasis
  • Communications, value-coproduction, eigen behaviours
  • Complexity, variety, requisite variety, variety engineering
  • Structure, structural recursion
  • Organisation, relationships
  • Self-organisation
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-reference and identity
  • Social systems, organisational systems and institutions
  • Reflexivity
  • Power
  • Governance
  • Cybersyn


The module will be organised around three key readings written by Professor Espejo:

Espejo, Raul. 1994. What is Systemic Thinking? in System Dynamics Review, June 1994 pp199-212

Espejo, Raul. 2014. Cybernetics of Governance: The Cybersyn Project 1971-1973, in Social Systems and Design. Edited by G. S. Metcalf, pp 71-90, Springer: Tokyo, Heidelberg

Espejo, Raul. 2015. Good Cybernetics is a must in Policy Processes. Kybernetes, Vol 44, 6-7, pp 874 – 890

Other key references

Ashby, W. Ross. 1964. An Introduction to Cybernetics. London: Methuen & Co.

Bateson, Gregory. 1973. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. London: Paladin

Beer, Stafford. 1981. Brain of the Firm (2nd edition). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Beer, Stafford . 1979. Heart of Enterprise. London: John Wiley & Sons.

Raul Espejo

Raul EspejoDirector of Syncho Research and Director-General of the World Organization of Systems and Cybernetics. 

From 1971 to 1973 he was, under the scientific direction of Professor Stafford Beer, operations director of the CYBERSYN project – the Chilean Government’s project for the management of the social economy. During the mid 70s he worked as research scholar at the Manchester Business School and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Luxenburg, Austria. From 1977 to 1994 he was associate professor at the University of Aston UK, and from 1995 to 2002 full professor at the University of Lincoln UK. He has been visiting professor at several universities worldwide. The main focus of his research has been on organisational diagnosis and design, and has published extensively in books and journals; is the author of over 100 academic papers, co-author of three books and co-editor of another three.

In 1985 he created Syncho at the Aston Science Park, Birmingham, UK. Its work is in the field of organisational cybernetics. Over the years Professor Espejo has worked with a wide range of organisations worldwide, including national and local governments and small and large enterprises, mainly in aspects of organisational transformation and learning, information management and communications and democratic processes for decision making. He has been consultant of organisations like Hoechst AG in Germany, Hydro Aluminium in Norway, 3M in Europe, EdF in France and the Nuclear Inspectorate in Sweden and the National Audit Office and the Ministry of Education in Colombia.

He has directed several research and development projects and is responsible for the implementation of Cyberfilter, a management support software package focused on performance measurement and the development of Viplan Learning System, a training tool for the diagnosis and design of organisation structures.

Raul Espejo’s CV