About Next System Studies

We are in a transitional period in world history. Signs of economic, political, and ecological dysfunction are everywhere. New systems of societal organization are coming. But what will those systems bring? Next System Studies involve research into questions of systemic design, change, and movements – questions that ask, “Where are we going and where do we need to go? How might we get there? What must we do to get there?”

Our lives feel precarious. Many of us are anxious about the future. And our ability to respond effectively to the social, economic, political, climate, ecological, and human crises of these times is undermined by a widespread sense of crisis fatigue. Into this moment entered a new government in Washington that promised to “Build Back Better.” But should we build back better only from what the last president called the “American carnage” of recent years, or must we also find ways to overcome the mounting crises of the past forty years and the painful inequities of the past four hundred years? 

The 2022 Next System Fellows at Arlington are among the first students anywhere to participate in courses of next system studies. Together we will move beyond identifying and critiquing problems. Next system studies involve the study of next system design, systemic movements, and system change. A rising tide of community-based movements and initiatives offer the possibility that from this period of systemic decay may emerge a next system that is more democratic, sustainable, and just. Students engage directly with the experiences and ideas created through these initiatives. We also draw from fertile fields of study in political economy, cooperatives, technology and society, transition studies, popular constitutionalism, the commons, sustainable design, revolutions and social transformation, activist praxis, and social movements.

A Next System Fellowship provides excellent preparation for internships and careers in public policy and public service, social entrepreneurship, cooperative development, community and human services, education, labor organizing and worker rights, and social movement organizations and advocacy. We work directly with ongoing next system efforts in Virginia and the region, meet with practitioners and policy experts, present and discuss readings and films in a seminar format, and perform group work relevant to communities directly served and affected by George Mason University.

The first Next System Fellows at Arlington

The first Next System Fellows at Arlington

The original Next System Fellows leaflets posed several thought provoking questions to their readers: “Where is our society going, and where does it need to go? How do we get there, and what must we do to get there?” By posing these questions, the program implies it can provide answers to them. And perhaps it can. But essential is the pedagogy involved. By calling students to address the systemic challenges of the 21st century, the Next System Fellows program invites students to become a part of creating solutions. 

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