This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.


It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.


It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Enabling a Better Tomorrow through New Community Paradigms via Systems Thinking

This post is a ‘two-fer' covering the fifth and sixth segments of the STW/STIA Systems Thinking Certification course.  At this point in the course, we are exploring ways to make things better. We are endeavoring to take the perhaps audacious step of Enabling a Better Tomorrow. This endeavor requires all of the segments which came before it and which could, unfortunately, only be summarized on these pages. Although Enabling a Better Tomorrow has an idealistic ring to it, the actual application to specific situations is more concrete. 

The Kumu map for the segment follows basically the same path as the Enabling a Better Tomorrow approach. The creation of a unique model for a situation starts with assessing the overlaying Reality of the particular Situation. There are Assumptions by those involved in the Situation and Behavior Trends resulting from them. In creating a model of the situation in order to find some means of improving it, the systems thinker seeks to attain a deeper Understanding of the system being studied by understanding the Stakeholders involved within the system, the Boundaries making up the system and the Leverage Points within the system that enable change. These are all then used to make a Strategy which through a process of Adoption is implemented by the Stakeholders creating a new pattern of behavior and hopefully attaining the desired situation.

This is still though only a template for any particular situation but it is important to get the template correct as possible before moving on to the actual situation with which you are dealing. A template is good because it can be applied to a variety of different situations. My situations of interest can be listed under new community paradigms but I knew that I wanted a fairly robust template so for the segment’s assignment I created a model on a Strategy Enabling a Better Tomorrow. The model is an attempt to map out a template for a general implementation plan or strategy for the Enabling a Better Tomorrow process. The difference between what I did and what was presented in the segment was classifying elements of the Enabling a Better Tomorrow into different categories, Underlying Reality, Overt Reality, Modeling Components and Change Management Factors and demonstrating how they could be interrelated differently at different levels. Each element of the model provides links to a deeper examination of that element.

The challenge in actually implementing new community paradigms is that reality is far more complex. Nobody is going to be able to give you the answers to complex problems, especially Wicked Problems on the pages of a blog. At best, they may be able to show you a path or a process that you must undertake for yourself.  The paradox is that one has to deal both with the complexity of the situation being faced and the seeming complexity of finding the means of dealing with it through systems thinking. 

To appreciate this complexity we are going to have to go back a couple of segments to Systems Thinking 2nd Segment - Striving for a Better Understanding.  Understanding comes before enabling.  The second segment provided an overview of systems thinking but the blog post covering that segment only highlighted the main points.  Each Kumu segment map also offers additional information along ancillary pathways. One such pathway connector in that segment leads you to Michael C. Jackson’s System of Systems Methodology (SOSM) framework.

This section addresses the difficulties of integrating systems thinking, or in deciding which system thinking system to select in addressing the problems facing us. Part of the reason this is all so complex is because it involves people and people are complex, particularly in groups. 

The short version is that all system thinking approaches can be categorized in two ways, first classifying the system as either simple or complex, and then by classifying the relationships stakeholders of the system as  Unitary, Pluralist or Coercive. Community governance as envisioned by new community paradigms would fall under the Pluralist classification though could move at times to the other two.  The Pluralist classification could include Appreciative Inquiry, Idealized Design, and other approaches. 

This all goes back to Dancing through the Complexities of Thinking Systematically about Systems Thinking and looking at system thinking itself through a meta lens. 

When looking at the system and extending our boundaries of what we consider the system to be, in addition to thinking about the particular specific issues, we also begin thinking about meta-issues, the meta is the thing to focus on, higher levels of abstractness or about (its own category).

An experiential truth, one that you have to go through yourself, is that these different perspectives between the different systems being examined and system thinking itself, and between the various types of systems thinking and the different levels at which they operate are not as separate and distinct as they seem.  

They may appear so when presented on the pages of this blog but in their consistent utilization, there is a tipping point at which the complexity begins to become more coherent. The uncertainty may remain because that is always a factor within the complexity and some may prefer to ignore both the complexity and the uncertainty. Unfortunately, this is usually unsustainable and leads to unintended and invariably bad consequences. The ‘Moonshot’ challenge is getting the members of your organization or communities willing to work past the hurdles to reach beyond that point.

There is a level of model creation between the empty template of Enabling a Better Tomorrow and the more specific but numerous choices subsumed under Jackson’s SOSM Framework but this one you have to create yourself using the resources made available from the other two levels.

This is the approach that I took in creating the model New Community Paradigms.  It is based on the development template provided by the Strategy Enabling a Better Tomorrow model. It also followed a structure of a more specific example provided by the STIA Certification course. It is though only a rough approximation of what has been developed so far in creating new community paradigms. It still follows the basic principle of modeling pronounced by George Box, “All models are wrong but some models are useful” as discussed in Insight Maker - Understanding Systems Thinking and Systems through Trial and Learning.

At this stage in its development, the New Community Paradigms model is not a realistic facsimile of the New Community Paradigms endeavor nor is any of it applicable to specific situations. It is interesting though how systems thinking is able to incorporate all of the elements together into an organized and useful system that could enable greater understanding in how to create and implement new community paradigms.

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