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, September 27, 2018

Searching for a Systems Map to a New Jerusalem Vision

In the previous post, the systems maps included in the article A Systemic View of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by David Peter Stroh in the Systems Thinker were introduced for the purpose of comparison and contrast with the newly developed Systems Practice Jerusalem Vision systems map, based in part on the article Eastern Jerusalem: End of an Intermediate Era by Dr. David Koren, Advisor to the Mayor of Jerusalem for Arab and eastern Jerusalem affairs.

This post will be focusing especially on systems maps and in particular, the Conflict systems maps by Stroh. Both the Conflict maps and Systems Practice map use Causal Loop Diagrams.

For better explanatory purposes of a complex issue, a Kumu presentation based on the Stroh maps replicated using Kumu is provided below.

Keeping in mind, it is through an explanatory method, graphically organized with certain rules, that cannot be said to be widely familiar outside certain circles and serves as a medium for a formal means of thinking, systems, often even more unfamiliar.

The Kumu version of the A Systemic View of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict maps combines the two maps in Stroh’s article into one map. Other than that, the Kumu map should accurately reflect his map but this claim should also be verified. There are some resulting differences that arise which need to be made apparent since they will be the basis for any critiques.

The +Acumen Systems Practice course uses plus (+) and minus (-) signs in combination to connect two of what Systems Practice calls factors or what Kumu calls elements to reflect the type of change taking place in the causal relationship. Stroh uses a means of connecting factors together that was developed by Peter Senge. Two factors are linked together in a cause-effect relationship with a connection that is designated with either S as in the two factors move in the same direction or O as in the factors move in the opposite direction. What is not made immediately apparent is whether those factors are both increasing or both decreasing for the S connection or which factor is increasing and which is decreasing for the O connection.

This means Stroh’s approach reflects two different possible relationships while the systems Practice approach has four different relationships. The underlying complexity is the same with both just more apparent with Systems Practice.

The differences between the two systems maps range not only from different mapping techniques but also their different approaches to the issues in general, which when combined together tell different stories. The two systems though are still interrelated and their respective maps can provide insights into each other. There are some important differences between the overall scopes of the two maps that need to be noted.

First, the Conflict maps were developed from a single perspective while the Systems Practice map was drawn from multiple perspectives. More perspectives mean more complexity.

Second, the time periods being taken under consideration are different. The actual system being described went through a number of changes between the two periods which is to be expected with a wicked problem.

Third, the boundary of the two systems maps is different both systemically and geographically. The Conflict maps attempted to address a larger more global political issues across a multi-jurisdictional geographic space, while the Systems Practice map addressed factors contained within the neighborhoods, especially the Arab neighborhoods, of East Jerusalem.

The Stroh maps are more institutionally focused and although suggesting to be speaking of people in a general sense, the only agents capable of instituting the recommended changes are institutions or their leaders. Within the Systems Practice map, Dr. Koren’s writing can be seen as distinguishing the differences in the approach for the Jerusalem Vision of the two systems as “Jerusalem of Above” for the Conflict map and “Jerusalem of Below” for the Vision map respectively.

There wasn't any attempt to list Israeli factors on one side of a ledger and Palestinian factors on the other side. The Conflict maps combine both Israeli and Palestinian aspects of the system into single factors. Every factor in the Conflict map is mutually based on both the Israeli and Palestinian aspects of that situation. This means that factors lack situational context or specificity in how they are interrelated with each other creating, in my view, a sense of false equivalency, limiting potential causal pathways and causing confusion when traveling a loop’s path.

Both of Stroh’s maps put the factor or element ”Threats to right of Israelis/Palestinians to exist” as the focus of the maps. The Systems Practice map does not have such a focus on a specific factor. The Systems Practice map does though, in addition to configuring the factors into causal loops as does the Conflict map, also organize factors into what Systems Practice terms as Themes. Themes are basically related factors but not necessarily sharing any causal pathway or set within a causal loop. These themes, with one debatable exception, were not focused on or ranked.

The Systems Practice approach avoids lumping factors by label or blending them together based on different aspects or perspectives to make them more homogeneous. Factors under Systems Practice then retain a certain independence or isolation from specifically serving solely one side of the system conflict or the other until their influences within the larger system are determined. They are often shown to have counterparts that they were either influenced by or that they influenced or both. The Systems Practice approach, as it will be shown in more detail in future posts, disaggregates factors and then seeks to develop fresh connections between them to provide new insights. This also enhances complexity.

The R1 loop, which Stroh presents separately in the article from the other loops, is set as reinforcing, whether or not depends on how it is structured. At least it doesn't have a stated goal as might a balancing loop but its means of continuous increase, of what is unclear, is constantly thwarted in a Sisyphean manner over two opposing hills.

The first hill, Stroh’s Balancing Causal Loop B2 contains two factors or elements, the “Retaliation, containment policies, armed resistance, and incitement” and then the aforementioned ”Threats to rights of Palestinians/Israelis to exist” on one side of the loop which he asserts are causally related or at least highly correlated together and move in the same direction.

The B2 ”Goal of reclaiming all land” moves presumably in the same direction so that an increase in the factor ”Retaliation” (against the other side) means that ”Threats to rights of Palestinians/Israelis to exist” or (the other side) similarly increases until that side’s goal is met. Independently, however, the B2 loop does not achieve that goal.

The next connection, instead, is defined with an opposite O connection, if ”Threats” go up then ”Retaliation” goes down. It counteracts the overall accumulation of the loop, so balancing, not reinforcing so that neither side can reach its stated goal. This means that ”Retaliation” decreases for no apparent reason based on the B2 loop itself. This doesn’t make practical sense to me.

It is the R1 loop that arguably makes the next loop B2 a balancing loop and causes the second half to be set as an O connection. If ”Threats to rights of Palestinians/Israelis to exist” were instead to increase “Retaliation” then the loop would become reinforcing.

It is the ”Loss of life” in R1 that assumedly can be seen as being too excessive by both sides inducing a return to the ”Negotiation” tables, temporarily decreasing ”Retaliation” until the point in the R1 loop that again results in ”Promises are broken” diminishing the ”Effectiveness of the peace process”.

The second hill, balancing loop B3 also has a goal, the ”Goal of Peaceful Coexistence”. It has an O or opposite relationship with ”Threats to rights of Palestinians/Israelis to exist” diminishing it has the result of ”Mutually acceptable agreement for peaceful coexistence” increasing.

The lessening of threats moves in the same direction as ”Negotiations” increasing the chances of the creation of a mutually acceptable (written ) agreement for peaceful coexistence so that the ”Goal of Peaceful Coexistence” is actually met. Again, the loop is influenced by the R1 loop which disrupts the ”Peace-seeking process” with ”Broken promises”, stochastically it would seem, diminishing the ”Effectiveness of the peace process” and returning the system to B2.

The next loop in the Conflict map R4 enhances “Violent response from the other side, hatred, mistrust” raised through “Retaliation” within B2 thereby again increasing the “Threats to rights of Palestinians/Israelis to exist”. It is also the last loop to directly impact “Threats to rights of Palestinians/Israelis to exist”. The remaining two reinforcing loops R5 and R6 are more like negative catalysts, both being initiated by “Violent response from the other side, hatred, mistrust” but moving in different directions against ”Negotiations” and the "Mutually acceptable agreement for peaceful coexistence” respectively.

Stroh passes over examining a number of factors and determining how they might influence the system. Stroh systems strategy to addresses all of this is to have a tipping point of everyone involved unilaterally and completely drop any ”Goal of reclaiming all land” and ceasing all "Threats against Palestinians/Israelis” by eliminating the connections between certain factors but he doesn't provide the factors that would be able to accomplish this.

Stroh’s systems maps work to support what appears to be a predetermined goal making a seemingly intractable problem intuitively accessible and relatively simple to understand. He is correct, the current strategies are dead ends. However, his strategy of systems change has little likelihood to work for those who need them. The Jerusalem Vision systems map will concern itself with a smaller scope of focus and will be far more complex within that focus but will still need to be judged on the same standards of being understandable, comprehensiveness and efficacy.

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