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Systems Thinking Applications

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Table of Contents



Applying Systems Thinking 


Donella Meadows Project 



Other Systems Thinking Change Agents





    • Systems Innovation is an online platform for systems thinking and systems innovation - our mission is to make complexity and systems thinking accessible to all through education and enable systems level change through collaboration.






    • Systems Changes is a collaborative open research program, initiated from Toronto, Canada. A call for participation was launched in January 2019 at the monthly Systems Thinking Ontario meeting. The web site was will evolve as contributions and knowledge are added.




    • The Presencing Institute (PI) is an awareness-based action research community for profound societal innovation and change. The presencing process is a journey that connects us more deeply both to what wants to emerge in the world and to our emerging, higher self.





    • We continually build our catalog of resources to inspire and support you on your journey to apply the latest innovations in adaptive leadership. View the most up to date Pontifex Consulting (and partners) videos. Download our practical resources to illuminate concepts and provide you with concrete tips and techniques for building your adaptive learning skills.




    • The failure of many of the systems that underpin modern life is increasingly difficult to avoid, so it's not surprising that interest in 'systems innovation' is growing fast. At the Point People, we've seen pioneers emerging in this field from different sectors, leading very different kinds of organisations and speaking very different professional languages. We had a hunch that these frontrunners could tell a compelling story about what systemic innovation looks and feels like in practice. So we put them in front of a camera and asked them a handful of questions.




    • Mind the Gap is a trusted international training and research organisation working with people on personal development and organisational change. We do training, facilitation, consultancy, evaluation, research and coaching.




    • Stockholm Resilience Centre advances research on the governance of social-ecological systems with a special emphasis on resilience - the ability to deal with change and continue to develop.




    • Design with Dialogue (DwD) is an open Toronto-based community of practice for dialogue as co-creation. DwD has the ultimate purpose of facilitating change and meaningful action in our organizations, communities, collaborative projects and as individuals. We learn and play together through participatory design, strategic dialogue, creative arts and emerging facilitation methods.




    • Systems thinking The fact that ecological sustainability is a property of a web of relationships means that in order to understand it properly, in order to become ecologically literate, we need to learn how to think in terms of relationships, in terms of interconnections, patterns, context. In science, this type of thinking is known as systemic thinking or "systems thinking." It is crucial for understanding ecology, because ecology – derived from the Greek word oikos ("household") – is the science of relationships among the various members of the Earth Household. 



Systems Thinking Featured Articles & Documents



    • The nonobvious interrelationships among elements in a complex system often thwart people’s best intentions to sustainably improve system performance. The complex, nonlinear problems that most foun- dations address can be solved most effectively by thinking systemically instead of linearly about these problems.  Systems thinking offers a range of analytic tools to improve our capacity to think systemically, including ways to distinguish problem symptoms from root causes, reinforcing and balancing feedback, system archetypes, mental models, and system purpose and goals. 


    • If you are a systems thinker, you might sometimes feel you are going a little crazy. We still live in command-and-control land and our assumptions haven't caught up to the realities of the world. If you have begun to act and talk like a systems thinker, you may be treated a little like the court jester. Actually, I'd say it was closer to the boy who declared the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes. Nonetheless, this is what it's like being a systems thinker. You see and say things that others think are a little crazy. Alternatively, people hear your words, but you realise after a while that they are processing them with an analytical mindset and so misunderstand the whole thrust of thinking systemically. We are all prisoners of our own flat-earthisms, after all. So you are either side-lined because your ideas seem a little far-fetched ("If there is no hierarchy, how do you control people????") or what they think they understand is not what you intended.



    • "In 1973, social scientists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber defined wicked problems as those incomprehensibly complex and messy issues we have trouble defining, let alone attempting to solve. Climate change has proven one of the most wicked, as have healthcare, corruption, and the prison system. Such problems are inherently systemic, with unavoidable social complications that require flexibility and patience."



  • Why have we lost control and how can we regain it? : RSA blogs

    • The problem is that we use these powers in historically/culturally path dependent ways so the tensions become more acute. The rationalism of the nation-state as a system-hierarchy is good when talking to other states (treaty writing as per Kyoto or the Treaty of Rome), or when universal rules are needed (eg tax collection) but bad at the particular (eg helping troubled families). Passion-populism is critical for mobilisation but can also be corrosive as it fails to offer any real solutions (see UKIP et al). Creative-civic power is good at adapting resources, institutions, and policies to particular needs or ambitions but it is bad at universal welfare and justice. It can also be just as failure prone as passion politics and hierarchy (it’s hard and complex to confront particular, local and personal challenges).




    • Everyone knows about the big global challenges like economic instability, loss of nature, poverty, waste, conflict and climate disruption. Even after decades of efforts these monstrous problems are not being tackled so much as tickled! Many of these problems are getting out of hand yet even now the possibility of rapidly reversing all of them is within our grasp. This goal looks unrealistic to many people, given the struggle for meaningful change so far. Yet this is the key; the scale of our ambitions must match the scale of the problems as a whole. This is society's blindspot - see this and civilisation gets the chance to go on. This article is the introduction to an 'advanced research workshop' paper, Seven Policy Switches for Global Security, for the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme




    • Group model building (GMB) is a participatory approach that is widely used to build the capacity of practitioners to think in a systems way. However, it is a resource-intensive approach that requires high-level buy-in and the investment of time. We discuss the evidence, including a systematic review of the literature examining the effectiveness of GMB approaches across a wide range of contexts. The results of the review are generally positive and suggest that GMB improves problem understanding, increases engagement in systems thinking, builds confidence in the use of systems ideas and develops consensus for action among diverse stakeholders.



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