On July 8–12, 2013 the first annual Dynamical Systems Theory Innovation Lab was convened in Sheboygan, Wisconsin to share and develop leading-edge models and methods for addressing social ills.

A core, multidisciplinary group of faculty practitioners, scholars, and researchers, who approach their work from a complex systems perspective, spent nearly one year organizing this week-long “innovation lab.” The aim of the lab was to create opportunities, structures and support mechanisms for hosting a diverse group of experienced scholar-practitioners currently applying complexity science approaches to conflict and peace. Thirty-two participants attended and spent five days on the shore of Lake Michigan exploring these concepts, learning together and developing a new, robust community of research and practice.

Each day of the lab built upon the previous. Day 1 introduced the lab participants, core models and principles of systems and complexity, and addressed areas of congruence and incongruence between participants around these concepts. Days 2-4 focused on innovation: identifying areas of opportunity in the field, generating new innovations, and building collaborative relationships for moving forward. Additionally, individual lab members hosted “open space” sessions, sharing their own innovations, or encouraging dialogue around specific concepts or issues in the field. Finally, Day 5 brought all of efforts together – serving as an opportunity for participants to propose specific projects to move the work of the lab forward. (A comprehensive list of resources used in the lab, as well as a detailed agenda are available on the Innovation Lab website)

In parallel to these activities, the lab participants devoted a portion of each day to work with leaders from the Sheboygan community to discuss systemic possibilities for addressing current challenges to their community. Lab participants were organized into thematic groups in order to build an understanding of the situation from multiple system’s perspectives. On Day 4, a final report culminating the work of each of these groups was presented to the clients and members of the community.

Now that the lab has adjourned, group members are only beginning to realize the numerous insights and innovations that have emerged. The work now belongs to the participants to form collaborative teams and develop specific plans for action to carry out the proposed projects. Going forward, each of these efforts will be cataloged on the DST Innovation Lab website as they move forward. In addition, planning is already underway for the 2014 Innovation Lab, so stay tuned!

The Dynamic Systems Theory (DST) Innovation Lab was sponsored by the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation Conflict and Complexity (AC4), and the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Columbia University, The Institute of World Affairs (IWA) at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University, and was supported by a grant from the J.M. Kohler Foundation.