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Dr Chris Blackmore

Profile summary

Professional biography

In both teaching and research I focus on learning systems, environmental decision making, environmental ethics and responsibility, sustainable development, managing systemic change and communities of practice.

From the mid 90s to the present time I  have been involved in OU courses and research with a range of roles including:

  • Chair of the OU's first postgraduate course in Environmental Decision Making: a Systems Approach (T860 which is now T891 Making Environmental Decisions)
  • Chair and/or team member of ten Open University courses/modules - undergraduate and postgraduate (mainly environmental and systems)
  • Qualification co-lead of the MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice & various contributions to MSc in Environmental Decision Making/Environmental Management
  • Researcher on a succession of international projects concerned with social learning, governance, networks and communities of practice in contexts of water, agriculture and climate adaptation .
  • Author of a wide range of open learning materials, books and papers on environment/sustainable development and systems
  • Head of the Systems Discipline in 2002 and 2003.

I originally joined the Systems Discipline of the Open University in 1986 from an environmental sciences/ environmental education background and after working for several years in Africa. First  I managed the Farm Interpretation Project (25 staff through the Community Programme) and subsequently the self-financing Countryside Interpretation Unit. Between 1990 and 1994 I worked on a cross-Faculty project developing the OU's Environmental Education and Training and contributed to introduction of sustainable development into OU teaching through partnerships with external agencies, both national and international. I took an active role in multi-stakeholder processes around UNCED's Agenda 21 in the 1990s, representing the education community on the Executive of UNED-UK, fore-runner of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future.


Research interests

I am an experienced researcher and have been involved in a range of international EU and private sector funded  research projects that have focused on learning, systems, sustainability, managing and governance in contexts of water and/or farming.  These projects include SLIM (Social Learning for the Integrated Management and sustainable use of water at catchment scale) ,  LEARNing (Learning in Agricultural and Rural Networks: institutions, networks and governance)  and CADWAGO (Climate change adaptation and water governance - reconciling food security, renewable energy and the provision of multiple ecosystem services). Currently I am the OU Lead for the H2020 AgriLink project. (see Research activity for description).

I have supervised several PhD studies through to completion.   I have also examined a range of PhD studies in the UK and further afield.  My own PhD thesis was entitled: 'Learning systems and communities of practice for environmental decision making.'  

Forthcoming conference activity

The 13th European IFSA Symposium 1st - 5th July 2018 at Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (CIHEAM - MAICh), Crete, Greece. Abstract submitted with Profs Nadarajah Sriskandarajah and Ray Ison. Also part of the team running the PhD training course  "Systems Thinking and Practice in PhD Research" from 29th June to 5th July 2018

Recent  conference activity 

International Systems Sciences Society 2017, Vienna, Austria 10-14 July 2017 - From Science to Systemic Solutions: systems thinking for everyone. Participant.  Also part of the team running the PhD training course  "Systems Thinking and Practice in PhD Research" from 7-14 July 2017

International Systems Sciences Society 2016, Boulder, Colorado 24-30 July 2016 -- Realizing Sustainable Futures in Socio-Ecological Systems
Paper, with Ray Ison, Transforming to sustainable futures: learning from 45 years of systems thinking in practice pedagogy also part of the team running the PhD training course  "Systems Thinking and Practice in PhD Research" from 22-30 July 2016

The 12th European IFSA Symposium 12-15 July 2016 at Harper Adams University, UK
Final plenary keynote, theme co-ordinator for enabling governance, policy and institutions workshops also part of the team running the PhD training course  "Systems Thinking and Practice in PhD Research" from 9-16 July 2016

"Governing the Anthropocene: Cyber-systemic Possibilities" Herrenhausen Palace, Hannover Germany, 30th and 31st July 2015
"Governing the Anthropocene: the greatest challenge for systems thinking in practice?" 
International Systems Sciences Society 2015 Berlin, Germany : August 2 - 7, 2015

Education for Sustainability in Higher Education: Achievements & Prospects Conference 8 January 2015 Plymouth University
Paper presented and published in the proceedings

Teaching interests

Mainly involved in postgraduate teaching, currently Qualification Co-Lead (with Martin Reynolds) for Systems Thinking in Practice

Currently involved in the following Open University modules


Impact and engagement

Through the Systems Thinking in Practice qualifications I have, for several years,worked alongside my colleagues Martin Reynolds and Ray Ison with our Alumni and some of their employers. There is an action research aspect to our work in this area that has impact in that our Alumni group is using what they have learnt to improve a wide range of situations they are involved in ranging from environmental management to health and social care to their organisations to multi-level governance.  Our research projects (see Research and publications section) are in similar modes.

The summer PhD courses that I run with Ray Ison, Nadarajah Sriskandarajah (SLU, Sweden) and Ika Darnhofer (BOKU, Vienna, Austria) also engage with various communities of practice and have impact. 

External collaborations

I collaborate with researchers and businesses in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Romania, Norway, Latvia, UK, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Italy, through the AgriLink project.

In recent years I have also collaborated with researchers in Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia and Canada through the CADWAGO project.  

I collaborate with other academics in Europe and the United States in running summer courses in Systems Thinking and Practice in PhD Research.

I am currently a part of various networks that are engaged in research, teaching and scholarship concerning Systems Thinking in Practice, Environmental Decision Making and Sustainability. These include:

The International Farming Systems Association

The International Society for the Systems Sciences

I also have ongoing international links through my longstanding work on Communities of Practice and on Environmental and Sustainable Development Education.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Open Systems Research GroupGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Externally funded projects

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Jun 201730 Nov 2021EC (European Commission): FP (inc. Horizon Europe, H2020, ERC)

H2020 project to stimulate sustainability transitions in European agriculture through better understanding the roles played by farm advice in farmer decision-making. OU participation in monitoring and supporting learning within ‘Living Labs’, including a web engagement strategy and development of some distance learning material


Revisiting deliberative policy analysis through systemic co-inquiry: some experiences from the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in England (2019)
Foster, Natalie; Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris and Collins, Kevin
Policy Studies, 40 (pp. 510-533)

Developing Learning Systems For Addressing Uncertainty In Farming, Food And Environment: What Has Changed In Recent Times? (2018)
Blackmore, Chris; Sriskandarajah, Nadarajah and Ison, Ray
International Journal of Agricultural Extension (pp. 03-15)

Re-Staging La Rasgioni: Lessons Learned from Transforming a Traditional Form of Conflict Resolution to Engage Stakeholders in Agricultural Water Governance (2017-04-22)
Ruiu, Maria Laura; Maurizi, Sante; Sassu, Simone; Seddaiu, Giovanna; Zuin, Olga; Blackmore, Chris and Roggero, Pier Paolo
Water, 9, Article 297(4)

Where There Is No History: How to Create Trust and Connection in Learning for Transformation in Water Governance (2017-02)
de Vries, Jasper R.; van Bommel, Severine; Blackmore, Chris and Asano, Yoshiko
Water, 9(2) (p 130)

Performing and orchestrating governance learning for systemic transformation in practice for climate change adaptation (2016-12-01)
van Bommel, Séverine; Blackmore, Chris; Foster, Natalie and de Vries, Jasper
Outlook on Agriculture, 45(4) (pp. 231-237)

Learning for Transformation of Water Governance: Reflections on Design from the Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance (CADWAGO) Project (2016-11-04)
Blackmore, Chris; van Bommel, Severine; de Bruin, Annemarieke; de Vries, Jasper; Westberg, Lotten; Powell, Niel; Foster, Natalie; Collins, Kevin; Roggero, Pier Paolo and Seddaiu, Giovanna
Water, 8, Article 510(11)

The governance of farming and natural resource management (2016)
Jiggins, Janice; Blackmore, Chris; Ison, Ray and Röling, Niels
Outlook on Agriculture, 45(4) (pp. 217-219)

Water Governance in England: Improving Understandings and Practices through Systemic Co-Inquiry (2016)
Foster, Natalie; Collins, Kevin; Ison, Ray and Blackmore, Chris
Water, 5, Article 540

Insights into operationalizing communities of practice from SSM-based inquiry processes (2014-12)
Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris; Collins, Kevin; Holwell, Sue and Iaquinto, Ben
Systemic Practice and Action Research, 27 (pp. 91-113)

Learning to change farming and water management practices in response to the challenges of climate change and sustainability (2014-09)
Blackmore, Chris
Outlook on Agriculture, 43(3) (pp. 173-178)

In search of systemic innovation for sustainable development: a design praxis emerging from a decade of social learning inquiry (2014-05-31)
Colvin, John; Blackmore, Chris; Chimbuya, Sam; Collins, Kevin; Dent, Mark; Goss, John; Ison, Ray; Roggero, Pier Paolo and Seddaiu, Giovanna
Research Policy, 43 (pp. 760-771)

Designing and developing a reflexive learning system for managing systemic change. (2014)
Ison, Ray and Blackmore, Chris
Systems, 2(2) (pp. 119-136)

Towards systemic and adaptive governance: exploring the revealing and concealing aspects of contemporary social-learning metaphors (2013-03)
Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris and Iaquinto, Benjamin L.
Ecological Economics, 87 (pp. 34-42)

Knowledge exchange: a review and research agenda for environmental management (2013-03)
Fazey, Ioan; Evely, Anna C.; Reed, Mark S.; Stringer, Lindsay C.; Kruijsen, Joanneke; White, Piran C. L.; Newsham, Andrew; Jin, Lixian; Cortazzi, Martin; Phillipson, Jeremy; Blackstock, Kirsty; Entwhistle, Noel; Sheate, William; Armstrong, Fiona; Blackmore, Chris; Fazey, John; Ingram, Julie; Gregson, Jon; Lowe, Philip; Morton, Sarah and Trevitt, Chris
Environmental Conservation, 40(1) (pp. 19-36)

Two cultures? Working with moral dilemmas in environmental science (2013)
Reynolds, Martin and Blackmore, Chris
AWERProcedia Advances in Applied Sciences, 1 (pp. 233-240)

Resilience in learning systems: case studies in university education (2010-10)
Sriskandarajah, Nadarajah; Bawden, Richard; Blackmore, Chris; Tidball, Keith G. and Wals, Arjen E. J .
Environmental Education Research, 16(5 & 6) (pp. 559-573)

A systemic approach to managing multiple perspectives and stakeholding in water catchments: some findings from three UK case studies (2007-10)
Collins, Kevin; Blackmore, Chris; Morris, Richard and Watson, Drennan
Environmental Science and Policy, 10(6) (pp. 564-574)

What kinds of knowledge, knowing and learning are required for addressing resource dilemmas? A theoretical overview (2007-10)
Blackmore, Chris
Environmental Science and Policy, 10(6) (pp. 512-525)

Learning Participation as Systems Practice (2007-09)
Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris and Armson, Rosalind
Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 13(3) (pp. 209-225)

Systemic environmental decision making: designing learning systems (2007)
Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris; Collins, Kevin and Furniss, Pam
Kybernetes, 36(9-10) (pp. 1340-1361)

Social learning: an alternative policy instrument for managing in the context of Europe's water. (2007)
Blackmore, Chris; Ison, Raymond and Jiggins, Janice
Environmental Science & Policy, 10(6) (pp. 493-498)

A Systemic approach to scoping of factors influencing more sustainable land use in Herefordshire (2006-12)
Morris, Dick; Oreszczyn, Sue; Blackmore, Christine; Ison, Raymond and Martin, Stephen
Local Environment, 11(6) (pp. 683-699)

Learning to appreciate learning systems for environmental decision making – a 'work-in-progress' perspective (2005-07-21)
Blackmore, Christine
Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 22(4) (pp. 329-341)

Systems and environmental decision-making: postgraduate open learning with the Open University (2001-12)
Blackmore, Chris and Morris, Dick
Systemic Practice and Action Research, 14(6) (pp. 681-695)

The role of systems thinking in the practice of implementing sustainable development goals (2017)
Reynolds, M.; Blackmore, C.; Ison, R.; Shah, R. and Wedlock, E.
In: Leal Filho, Walter ed. Handbook of Sustainability Science and Research (pp. 677-698)
ISBN : 978-3-319-63006-9 | Publisher : Springer

Understanding and developing communities of practice through diagramming (2017)
Blackmore, Chris; Foster, Natalie; Collins, Kevin and Ison, Ray
In: Oreszczyn, Sue and Lane, Andy eds. Mapping environmental sustainability: reflecting on systemic practices for participatory research (pp. 155-182)
Publisher : Policy Press | Published : London

Embedding sustainability through systems thinking in practice: some experiences from the Open University (2015-04)
Blackmore, Chris; Reynolds, Martin; Ison, Raymond and Lane, Andrew
In: Wyness, Lynne ed. Education for Sustainable Development Pedagogy: Criticality, Creativity, and Collaboration. PedRIO occasional papers (8) (pp. 32-35)
Publisher : Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory (PedRIO) | Published : Plymouth University

Thinking differently about sustainability: experiences from the UK Open University (2015)
Blackmore, Chris; Ison, Raymond and Reynolds, Martin
In: Filho, Walter Leal; Azeiteiro, Ulisses; Alves, Fátima and Caeiro, Sandra eds. Integrating Sustainability Thinking in Science and Engineering Curricula. World Sustainability Series (pp. 613-630)
ISBN : 978-3-319-09473-1 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Cham

Knowledge, learning and societal change for sustainibilty (2013)
Blackmore, Chris
In: Freedman, Bill and Rogers, Deborah S. eds. Global Environmental Change. Handbook of Global Environmental Pollution (1) (pp. 951-958)
ISBN : 978-94-007-5783-7 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Dordrecht

The role of action-oriented learning theories for change in agriculture and rural networks (2012-07)
Blackmore, Chris; Cerf, Marianne; Ison, Raymond and Paine, Mark
In: Darnhofer, Ika; Gibbon, David and Dedieu, Benoit eds. Farming Systems Research into the 21st Century: The New Dynamic (pp. 159-177)
ISBN : 978-94-007-4502-5 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Dordrecht

Designing and developing learning systems for managing systemic change in a climate change world (2012-06)
Blackmore, Chris and Ison, Ray
In: Wals, Arjen E. J. and Corcoran, Peter Blaze eds. Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change (pp. 347-363)
ISBN : 978-90-8686-203-0 | Publisher : Wageningen Academic Publishers | Published : Wageningen, The Netherlands

Sustainability (2012-02)
Blackmore, C.
In: Chadwick, Ruth; Árnason, Vilhjálmur; Faunce, Thomas; Gillies, Alan; Holm, Soren; McGee, Glenn; Poff, Deborah; Reynolds, Martin and Zwart, Hub eds. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics (Second Edition) (pp. 274-280)
ISBN : 9780123736321 | Publisher : Elsevier

Learning in European agricultural and rural networks: building a systemic research agenda (2012)
Hubert, Bernard; Ison, Ray; Sriskandarajah, Nadarajah; Blackmore, Chris; Cerf, Marianne; Avelange, Isabelle; Barbier, Marc and Steyaert, Patrick
In: Darnhofer, Ika; Gibbon, David and Dedieu, Benoit eds. Farming Systems Research into the 21st Century: The New Dynamic (pp. 179-200)
ISBN : 978-94-007-4503-2 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Dordrecht

Learning for communication about climate change in the context of farming using Vickers’ concept of an appreciative system (2010-07)
Blackmore, Chris
In: Darnhofer, Ika and Grötzer, Michaela eds. Building Sustainable Rural Futures: The Added Value of Systems Approaches. Proceedings of the 9th European International Farming Systems Association Symposium (pp. 2228-2236)
ISBN : 9783200019089 | Publisher : Universität für Bodenkultur | Published : Vienna

Managing systemic change: future roles for social learning systems and communities of practice? (2010)
Blackmore, Chris
In: Blackmore, Chris ed. Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice (pp. 201-218)
Publisher : Springer

Epilogue (2009)
Reynolds, Martin; Blackmore, Chris and Smith, Mark
In: Reynolds, Martin; Blackmore, Christine and Smith, Mark eds. The Environmental Responsibility Reader (pp. 341-347)
ISBN : 978 1 84813 317 4 | Publisher : Zed Books and The Open University

Tools and techniques for environmental decision making (2009)
Furniss, Pamela and Blackmore, Chris
In: Wilson, Gordon; Furniss, Pamela and Kimbowa, Richard eds. Environment, Development, and Sustainability: Perspectives and cases from around the world (pp. 250-258)
ISBN : 9780199560646 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK

Social learning and environmental responsibility (2009)
Blackmore, Chris
In: Reynolds, Martin; Blackmore, Christine and Smith, Mark J. eds. The Environmental Responsibility Reader (pp. 229-235)
ISBN : 978-1-84813-317-4 | Publisher : Zed Books

Enabling Duality in Teaching and Learning Environmental Decision Making - A Role for Communities of Practice? (2008-01)
Blackmore, Chris
In: Kimble, Chris and Hildreth, Paul eds. Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators
ISBN : 1593118651 | Publisher : Information Age Publishing

Boundaries for thinking in action (2007-05-16)
Blackmore, Chris and Ison, Ray
In: Blackmore, Christine and Ison, Raymond eds. Research Skills for Policy and Development: How to Find Out Fast (pp. 47-71)
ISBN : 9781412945646 | Publisher : Sage Publications | Published : London, UK

People, Robots and Systemic Decision Making (2007)
Blackmore, B. S. and Blackmore, C. P.
In: Stafford, J. V. ed. Precision agriculture '07 (pp. 433-439)
ISBN : 978-90-8686-024-1 | Publisher : Wageningen Academic Publishers | Published : Netherlands

Where do participatory approaches meet social learning systems in the context of environmental decision making? (2006)
Blackmore, Chris
In: Langevel, Hans and Rolings, Niels eds. Changing European farming systems for a better future: new visions for rural areas (pp. 29-34)
ISBN : 9086860028 | Publisher : Wageningen Academic Publishers

Living with the big picture: a systems approach to citizenship of a complex planet (2002)
Blackmore, Christine and Smyth, John
In: Dower, Nigel and Williams, John eds. Global Citizenship: A critical reader
ISBN : 748615466 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh, Scotland

Theoretical frameworks for learning-based approaches to change in industrialised-country agricultures (2000)
Ison, R. L.; High, C.; Blackmore, C. P. and Cerf, M.
In: Cerf, Marianne; Gibbon, David; Hubert, Bernard; Ison, Ray; Jiggins, Janice; Paine, Mark; Proost, Jet and Röling, Niels eds. Cow up a Tree: Knowing and Learning for Change in Agriculture. Case Studies from Industrialised Countries. Science update (pp. 31-54)
ISBN : 978-2-7380-0929-6 | Publisher : INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) Editions | Published : Paris

Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice (2010)
Blackmore, Chris ed.
ISBN : 9781849961325 | Publisher : Springer

The Environmental Responsibility Reader (2009-02)
Reynolds, Martin; Blackmore, Chris and Smith, Mark J. eds.
ISBN : 978 1 84813 317 4 | Publisher : Zed Books and The Open University | Published : London, UK

From competence to capability: learning laboratories in postgraduate pedagogy (2017)
Reynolds, M.; Shah, R.; Wedlock, E.; Ison, R. L. and Blackmore, C.
In : 6th eSTEeM Annual Conference 2017: STEM Futures: Supporting Students to Succeed (25-26 Apr 2017, Milton Keynes, UK)

Transforming to Sustainable Futures: Learning From 45 Years of Systems Thinking In Practice Pedagogy (2016)
Blackmore, Chris and Ison, Ray
In : 60th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) (23-30 Jul 2016, Boulder, Colorado)

Designing and evaluating a conference-based critical social learning system to support systems thinking in practice in PhD research (2015)
Blackmore, C. P.; Sriskandarajah, Nadarajah and Ison, Ray
In : Proc. ISSS Conference (2-7 Aug 2015, Berlin)

Learning systems, innovation and 'the wrong kind of weather' (2014-04)
Blackmore, Chris
In : 11th European International Farming Systems Association Symposium: Farming Systems Facing Global Challenges: Capacities and Strategies (1-4 Apr 2014, Berlin, Germany)

Towards systemic governance of social-biophysical systems: social learning as collaborative performance (2014)
Ison, Ray; Collins, Kevin; Blackmore, Chris and Lonsdale, Kate
In : Resilience & Development: Mobilising for Transformation (4-8 May 2014, Montpelier, France)

Supporting Water Governance and Climate Change Adaptation Through Systemic Praxis (2013)
Blackmore, Chris; Ison, Ray and Collins, Kevin
In : 12th Biennial Conference on Communication and Environment, Participation Revisited: Openings and Closures for Deliberations on the Commons, (6-11 Jun 2013, Uppsala, Sweden) (pp. 107-117)

Landscapes of practices, social learning systems and rural innovation (2012-07)
Blackmore, Chris
In : The 10th European IFSA symposium: Producing and Reproducing Farming Systems: New Modes of Organisation for Sustainable Food Systems of Tomorrow (1-4 Jul 2012, Aarhus, Denmark)

Designing and developing a reflexive learning system for managing systemic change in a climate-change world based on cyber-systemic understandings (2012)
Ison, Ray and Blackmore, Chris
In : European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research (EMCSR 2012) (09-13 Apr 2012, Vienna)

Social learning systems for collective action: a critical review of cases from UK, South Africa, China and Australia using social learning systems (2012)
Blackmore, C.; Collins, K.; Ison, R.; Colvin, J. and Wallis, P.
In : Planet Under Pressure 2012 (25-29 Mar 2012, London, UK)

Learning to start systemically in environmental decision making (2006)
Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris and Collins, Kevin
In : 7th European IFSA Symposium (7-11 May 2006, Wageningen, The Netherlands)

From one-off events to learning systems and communities of practice (2004-04)
Blackmore, Chris
In : (Pre)Proceedings of 6th IFSA European Symposium (4-7 Apr 2004, Vila Real, Portugal)

Learning participation as systems practice (2003-04)
Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris and Armson, Rosalind
In : International Workshop on Teaching and Learning Participation in Higher Education (2-4 Apr 2003, Brighton, UK)

Learning about learning as systemic practice in the context of environmental decision-making (2002)
Blackmore, C. P.
In : Pre-proceedings of 5th IFSA European Symposium (8-11 Apr 2002, Florence, Italy)

Learning systems and communities of practice for environmental decision making (2009-11)
Blackmore, Chris
PhD thesis The Open University

Partnerships for action in river catchment governance. A case study in the Irwell, UK. (2018)
Foster, Natalie; Ison, Ray; Blackmore, Chris and Collins, Kevin
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

Water governance in the UK and EU: So far, so what and what next? Symposium Report. 16th September 2015, Royal Society, London. (2015-09-16)
Foster, Natalie; Collins, Kevin; Ison, Raymond and Blackmore, Chris
The Open University, Milton Keynes.

River basin planning project: social learning (Science Report SC050037/SR1) (2005-09-01)
Collins, Kevin; Ison, Ray and Blackmore, Chris
Environment Agency, Bristol, UK.

LEARNing in European Agricultural and Rural Networks: institutions, networks and governance. Final Report. Contract no. HPSE-CT-2002-60059 (2005)
Hubert, Bernard; Avelange, Isabelle; Proost, M. D. C.; Ison, Ray and Blackmore, Chris
INRA France