- I see my system design competence as a critical piece in the puzzle ÆRA is trying to solve.


After three years of studying for a PhD in how business innovation can contribute to sustainable transitions, Svein Kjøde is back to help bring about desired systems change.

- I had the opportunity to immerse myself in an incredibly exciting and emerging field of transition design says Svein, who’s had a sort of re-inauguration of his work desk at ÆRA, after having left at the end of 2019 to pursue a PhD at the University of Oslo.

During the past three years, Svein has been part of an interdisciplinary research project focusing on how businesses can contribute to sustainable transitions. He’s now awaiting his official doctoral dissertation due at the end of this year.

The emerging field he’s referring to is one that attempts to align the large and established field of systems theory with actions that accelerate and guide desired systems change.

- I made the conscious decision of leaving my permanent employment at ÆRA in order to do independent research for my PhD, Svein explains. It’s an approach contrary to the more usual industry research PhD.

- I believe any sustainability research at this critical point in time should be conducted openly and made accessible to anyone and everyone, which the independent research allows for. It also granted me the objectivity I needed. A holistic view of how innovation and design play a part in shaping our future, Svein explains.

International demand

Svein returns to ÆRA with a competency and skills within that is likely unique on a national and possibly international level. He also returns with a new title: “Executive Advisor”.

- We’re incredibly lucky to call Svein our colleague again. He’s been greatly missed, but we’ve also cheered every step of his way throughout his PhD research, says Mads Bruun Høy, ÆRA’s Head of Co-Creation & Systems Innovation, before continuing:

- As an Executive Advisor Svein will now be able to work with cutting-edge expertise within our offerings. None other than Svein have the amount of raw insight and expertise in systems change in Norway, and he’s already been invited abroad multiple times to present his work to a wider audience. This is a great testimony to what he’s now achieved.

- I see my system design competence as a critical piece in the puzzle ÆRA is trying to solve. We cannot drive sustainable transformation without understanding how to solve complex problems, and Co-Creation & Systems Innovation is where ÆRA most directly translate this, what I have researched, in practice, adds Svein.

Studied Floke

During his PhD research, Svein studied ÆRA’s systems innovation program Floke alongside other, similar initiatives, closely. He found that FLOKE was far ahead of most others, not just in theory, but in the ability to carry out systems theory in practice.

- Svein's study of Floke gives us confirmation that Floke is a strong knowledge-based innovation program, and the necessary amount of progressive that we believe is needed in order to create system change. He basically confirms the whole reason for why Floke exists and how it’s built. Of course we’re proud, says Mads.

Systemic thinking

Well aware of being a new goal – let alone, term – to most, Svein takes his time when asked why we have to think in systems regarding sustainability solutions. He takes us back to the basics. To the apparent state of the world.

- First and foremost, human made destruction is so extensive. Just look at the recent report on planetary boundaries. Restoring the damage done, as a minimum, requires not just new innovations, but synergetic solutions. Solutions that are interconnected and empowers and strengthens each other’s success, says Svein. He describes this as the very goal of systemic thinking, continuing:

- We rarely ask ourselves the cost of creating new solutions, even in the name of sustainability. How much does it cost us to constantly create new, fragmented solutions aimed at large, complex challenges?

Promoting pluralistic mindsets

ÆRA works with a systems perspective to help businesses and society coordinate initiatives in one joint direction, towards our common, sustainable goals. According to Svein, it’s a perspective more people are becoming aware of, and adopting into their work. 

- They realize that they are part of a bigger picture, not knowing exactly where to start changing, or how to connect to this large web of movement, how to find collaborations and enter into partnerships. That’s why we’ve called the business area I’m part of "Co-Creation and Systems Innovation". We’re here to connect and help act, Svein says.

His choice of words like “connect” and “help” hints of an optimistic generosity that makes systems change feel authentic. Perhaps another critical puzzle Svein brings back with him to ÆRA – generosity:

- I was met by a remarkably open design community during my research. They shared so much of their experiences and their knowledge upon my requests. Such generous contributions signal a recognition of the challenges we face, and how much we want to find actionable solutions to them. I want to bring this energy into all of our projects in ÆRA, Svein follows, ending the interview with a clear vision:

- I want this to be a place for promoting openness and pluralistic mindsets. A necessity if we are to accomplish a sustainable transition.

Reach out to Svein

Svein Kjøde

Executive Advisor

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