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.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Final Draft NCP Fantasy Systems Thinking Team

The last two blog posts selected four of the five for the proposed NCP Fantasy Systems Thinking team, two new and two from the SP UK course selection leaving, Sir Geoffrey Vickers, Peter Checkland, Stafford Beer or somebody else new for the last position.

The SP UK course, using Ray Ison’s chart, placed Forrester and Meadows, the first two selected, on the ontological side of a Y-axis of a systems thinking chart of influences, and Ackoff and Argyris, the second two selected, on the epistemological side, though still fairly close to the ontological. The X-axis of Ison's chart is developmental influences, growing in these instances out of Operations Research and Complexity Sciences respectively.

Sir Geoffrey Vickers could be seen as a foundation of the SP UK course’s approach to systems thinking. Admittedly, very little is known about him and there has been no exposure to his work before this. A good part of his work was on Appreciative Systems and Behaviors. His school of Social Systems though is placed by Ison on the ontology side in between Systems Dynamics and Information Sciences, Management Sciences and Management Learning.

Vickers corresponded with another contender from the SP UK list, Peter Checkland, who is squarely on the epistemological side. They discussed the relationship between systems ideas and real-world experience. Checkland, similar to Ison and the SP UK course, saw differences between what could be termed hard and soft systems perspectives, with soft systems treating the definition as a question of epistemology, as in what can we know or find out about the world? A hard or dynamic system takes a more ontological approach. The differences between the two approaches are provided by Dr. Mike Yearworth in a chart (slide 5 adapted from Checkland & Holwell, 2004).

The Viable Systems Model (VSM), developed by Stafford Beer, was featured in the blog post Systems Thinking - Sailing through Wicked Problems on Complex Seas. VSM has been seen as a dynamic system, though according to Ison is epistemologically based, said to be not a method or process but a model.

"It is an organizational representation of the elements and interactions considered essential for any system to be viable or autonomous".

“A viable system being one that is organized and operates in a manner such as to survive in its changing environment. Adaptability is one of the prime features of systems that survive."(Adapted from Wikipedia)

This video explanation on the Basis for the Viable Systems Model is narrated by Beer, himself.

The final selection for the team, however, is Michael C. Jackson, who, as featured in the post Enabling a Better Tomorrow through New Community Paradigms via Systems Thinking, developed another type of System of Systems Methodology (SOSM) framework. Jackson’s framework, rather than being divided between ontology and epistemology then defined by developmental influences, is defined by simple systems versus complex systems and by the type of relationship between participants, whether unitary, pluralist or conflictual (my preferred term, Jackson also used coercive). Jackson, as he explained in Critical Systems Thinking: Beyond the Fragments sought to,

"Relate developments in systems thinking to an increased sophistication in coming to terms with extreme complexity and an increased awareness of difficulties posed by the divergent values and interests of stakeholders.”

Jackson's framework puts Forrester, Meadows and Beer together under complex and unitary. Peter Checkland assumedly fits under Soft Systems Thinking, incorporating a pluralist perspective ranging from simple to complex. Vickers, Ackoff and Argyris assumedly fit somewhere in between (unfortunately, the original creator Systemswiki is no longer in existence).

Ison’s chart places Jackson, himself, under Critical System Thinking which seeks to bring unity to the diversity of different systems approaches by combining systems thinking and participatory methods in addressing challenges characterized by large scale, complexity, uncertainty, impermanence, and imperfection.

By incorporating nonlinear relationships, feedback loops, hierarchies, emergent properties, it seeks solutions to the issues of inclusion, exclusion and marginalization as determined by boundaries and their consequences.

How Jackson influences the approach the NCP Fantasy Systems Thinking team takes in applying systems thinking to real world situations and systems is the question. Understanding needs to come before enabling.

Despite an admitted bias towards what could be considered hard or dynamic approaches to systems thinking with the intention of understanding or diagnosing problems and solving them, NCP has been exposed before to the soft systems thinking side, most directly through the newly revised Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation (DDST) which it needs to be confessed has, until recently, been left grossly neglected. As was said in Using Systems Practice to Unravel Complexity (Hands-on) in learning about a situation, one can expect new insights and expect to redraw (one's maps) to incorporate those new insights. Redraw, however, can refer to far more than just a map, it can also include correcting basic material and revising premises and conclusions.

DDST, originally in Hackpad is now in Dropbox Paper. NCP sought to provide and develop a concept map of the intentional transformational process to take a complex world through to what was seen as "the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible."

Jackson's System of Systems Methodologies, again as discussed in Systems Thinking - Sailing through Wicked Problems on Complex Seas, suggested two potential pathways that could be created by following two different approaches, one hard systems thinking, Creating the Future and one a soft systems thinking approach, Transforming the Future.

These were then combined together under Bridging Creating and Transforming the Future (a multiple causes map), revealing where the maps intersected and where they diverged was with complexity appearing at the juncture at which obstacles could arise creating tolls to further progress or at which the two pathways could be bridged and further developed.

Previously though, the Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking Kumu map recognized that interactions would be done by groups of diverse, independent agents, not as single entities but would be pluralist, possibly conflictual and very likely often complex with two Casual Loop Diagrams, R1 Deliberative Democratic Dialogue and R2 Working with Systems Thinking. The process would be both ontological and epistemological in nature.

These two foundational reinforcing loops were later considered as creating a juncture between Design Thinking, Collective Impact and Systems Thinking with "Civic and Community Groups" being at the center in the blog post, The What, Why and How of Design Thinking and Collective Impact part 2 of 3.

The actual creation of community projects, programs or policies was envisioned being likely assisted with the use of design thinking, involving working with "Systems Thinking Facilitators" and other community government "Staff". The development of specific proposals for projects, programs or policies would come from the community or from democratically selected or assigned leadership in the community. It could also be useful in assisting in integrating Community Groups into a prototype system of Community Based Virtual Systemic Inquiry (influence map), again supported by the implementation of systems thinking in both a complex and participatory mode within Jackson’s SOSM Framework.

Achieving the challenge of actually implementing new community paradigms is far more complex. 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.

The blog post The What, Why and How of Design Thinking and Collective Impact part 3 of 3 recognized that systems thinking alone is simply not enough. Systems thinking not only requires other disciplines and methodologies through which transformation and change can be implemented effectively, but should explicitly subordinate to a role of support, serving either as scaffolding for such efforts or strengthening the systemic infrastructure of such efforts.

As an example, the entire series of Systemic Design of Public Participation was seen as a viable vision for Solving Democracy’s Design Problem by addressing Public Participation Designed for Entrenched Incumbents as instances of espoused claims (examples of Stafford Beer’s POSIWID) being detrimental. Designing Public Participation Processes Map proposed to be a means of moving to a more viable, yet nonetheless more idealized system.

Past Posts