navigating complexity

navigating complexity posterWorkshop series description

Would you like to be able to handle complex situations with more ease and confidence? Just because life is complex doesn’t mean things need to feel complicated. In a scientific sense, a complex system is any system where there are multiple interacting elements that all affect each other and all interact simultaneously. Think of an economy, a traffic network, a family, an ecosystem or even the dynamics at a party. Animate Arts offers a series of interactive workshops which help you to access your intuitive ways of knowing in complex situations. We work with embodied, arts-based methodologies as well as meditative practices, often with a little theory of complex systems science to round things off. There is an emphasis on playful practice – play being such a natural way to explore complex dynamics.

Humans have evolved in a complex world. On a deep, pre-conscious level, you intuitively understand complexity better than you think. However, you have probably been trained to use your rational, analytical mind above all else to make sense of the world. Complex systems often defy this kind of analysis. In these sessions you will be invited to play with other ways of paying attention and interpreting what is going on around you. You will be invited to develop all of your ways of knowing as you learn how to tap into some of the embodied wisdom that your rational mind doesn’t always notice.

Further, we will also be developing your skills in ‘being present’. Complex dynamics are often inherently unpredictable (even intuitively), so we will explore together how you can stay connected to what is going on around you so you can better stay with a situation as it unfolds. With unpredictable dynamics the ability to be present and to improvise can take you a long way.

Your guide, Sophia van Ruth

Sophia has an MSc in Holistic Science from Schumacher College in the UK. This is where she learned about complex systems science. During her time at the College she noticed how much her shiatsu training and her InterPlay experience was helping her make sense of complexity.

Sophia is a certified InterPlay facilitator since 2007 and uses both the InterPlay practices and philosophy in her workshops. InterPlay works with improvised voice, movement and story in an system designed to make people feel safe to experiment, express, connect and play together.

Sophia is also a shiatsu therapist and has practised and taught for many years in the discipline of Zen Shiatsu. Shiatsu therapists are trained to be systems thinkers as they are always seeking to understand all the relationships between the different aspects of a person and their context. The aim is to build a picture of the pattern of health and illness of a client. Some of the diagnostic methods of shiatsu are also direct and sense based, enabling the therapist to use not only systems thinking, but also systems sensing in formulating a diagnosis.

Finally, Sophia worked for 10 years in Australia as a community engagement consultant where she helped design and facilitate large scale collaborative design and decision making processes. Genuinely involving communities in a participatory democratic process is deeply complex work! This experience has given Sophia a wealth of first hand knowledge of how to work effectively with the complexities of such a process in the real world.

Who is this work for?

Sophia was motivated to develop this work in response to what she perceived as a lack of breadth in the different ways of knowing that we cultivate in our educational institutions. She noted a dominance of ‘linear’ analytical methodologies which are not always helpful in dealing with complex situations. Accordingly she loves to work within educational programs.

Almost all situations in the real world are complex and hence this training can theoretically be applicable to all fields. However, these workshops are most applicable to people are going to be working in real world situations where the way forward is not always clear. They are also highly applicable to people who will be working in collaborative environments (such as intentional communities, transition initiatives, holarchies or with collaborative decision making processes). If you or your organisation are interested in these workshops please feel welcome to make contact with Sophia via the ‘contacts’ link above.

In addition to working with organisations, Sophia also offers occasional courses for the general public. These are usually one day workshops or short intensives. If you wish to go on the mailing list for these events click here.

What do these sessions look like and what will I learn?

Sophia will tailor make a format to suit your situation. The minimum timeframe that is meaningful for these sessions is one half day (3 hours). Sophia can offer programs ranging from a half day workshop to a 12 week course at three hours per week or an intensive of a few days.

The practical components of these trainings involve a lot of InterPlay. The group improvisational exercises of InterPlay will give you a live experience of complex dynamics. Via the practice of InterPlay you will also learn how to access your embodied ways of knowing, which can offer unique insights in complex situations. You will go home with a few practical ‘tools’ you can use when you are confronted with a complex situation to expand your decision making capacities. To learn more about what an InterPlay session might look like click here. To see the kinds of things that people get out of doing InterPlay follow this link. Sophia also uses practices drawn from the disciplines of shiatsu and Goethean Observation in these workshops.

The theoretical components of the workshops are primarily aimed at helping people get a better understanding of the dynamics of complex systems. You will learn about many of the insights coming out of the field of complex systems science and explore what they might mean for your life and work.

The image below is from a ‘prezi’ presentation which summarises the subject matter that is covered in this workshop series. Individual workshops are tailor made from this material to suit the situation. If you are new to prezi, you might like to know that you can navigate through the presentation with the arrow keys at the bottom of the screen. You can also navigate around the presentation by just clicking on the area that you are interested in to zoom there.

Click here to visit the prezi presentation

navigating complexity prezi image

Click here to view a selection of the handouts that go with these workshops


Animate Arts supports local currencies. In the Netherlands 50% payment for these workshops can be made in DAM, a local currency based in Rotterdam.