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, December 24, 2018

The Systems Thinking Iceberg Model helps with Understanding Systems Practice S.A.T. Analysis

So far we have dealt with Guiding Stars, Near Stars and Framing Questions as well as dealing with factors as either enabling or inhibiting in upstream/downstream patterns into different Themes of the system being explored. During this Jerusalem Vision project, a S.A.T. analysis, unique to Systems Practice was again conducted. Factors involved in cause/effect or upstream/downstream relationships can, according to the Systems Practice course be categorized as Structural, Transactional or Attitudinal.

It is a way of looking at a system so as to avoid focusing on only what is obvious and allowing for a deeper understanding of the system overall. By rigorously looking at all the cause and effect relationships, within a system, according to this set of categories, one has a better chance of illuminating the most important causal drivers in the system. This will be only a cursory explanation though, for a more complete one it will be necessary to take the course.

The course provides examples of the three categories of S.A.T. - Structural, Attitudinal or Transactional rather than definitions. The three, as presented by the course, can be seen as being distinct from each other.

There is though arguably an interrelationship between them that can be explored. This is based on a hypothesis that the Structural components or factors of a system help to determine Transactional factor patterns upon which both together Attitudinal factor perspectives are based which in turn support, oppose or acquiesce to those Structural components, which in turn, influence Transactional patterns.

This proposed interrelationship between the S.A.T. categories also suggests correspondence with another Systems Thinking meta-model, the Systems Thinking Iceberg Model. I explored the potential for these ideas with the Kumu project Implications 101 of Systems Iceberg and Systems Practice S.A.T. (Forked).

The Kumu project is based on fundamental Systems Thinking principles in the construction of Causal Loop Diagrams. More specifically, on five examples, of a more general and abstract nature, developed by Gene Bellinger for use in his still-developing interactive learning platform And! It's All Connected. Gene conducted the Systems Thinking Certification course I took. The ”Forked” in the title means that I had permission to make a duplicate of his work and modify it for my own purposes. As I told the And! It's All Connected Facebook group, ”Without a firm foundation through Gene's original maps, I would not have the same degree of confidence”.

Using Gene’s work as a basis, I first extended upon his ideas by adding new loops and then created new perspective (view) on the issues using S.A.T. categorizations. Gene, it should be noted created an advanced Kumu view to define his design. Mine created for the S.A.T. analysis was far more simple but it did, it can be asserted, support and expand upon the ideas below.

According to the course, the Structural category of S.A.T. includes the physical, whether natural such as air quality or drought or the built environment, say housing stock or the transportation system but it also includes the non-physical such as the social environment in which people live; including political, social and economic institutions.

Different types of institutional infrastructure could be considered either physical or non-physical e.g., legal system, economic policy, labor unions, church associations. In many cases, there will be a combination of both physical and non-physical aspects. The physical court building in which the non-physical legal system is practiced. The examples provided by the course could be considered as formal structures, some significant. Systems can give rise to factors that can serve as the structural components within that system helping to define it despite a lack of formal recognition.

The structural category of S.A.T. can be related to the structural level in the Iceberg Model. Structures are built and or are maintained by individuals that they are established by, working transactionally in concert but they are something more than individuals and are capable of persisting beyond individuals.

There is a structural component arising from the interaction of factors and forces which if changed could potentially change the system but to be adequately effective would likely need to be seen as a structural replacement.

Factors, at the Structural level of either the S.A.T. model or Iceberg model, can be considered as stocks both physical, whether natural or built environment and non-physical following Donella Meadows’ definitions.

The Principle of Accumulation states that all dynamic behavior in the world occurs when flows accumulate in stocks. Stocks can be increased or decreased but not instantaneously, 

“a stock takes time to change, because flows take time to flow”.

”A stock, then, is the present memory of the history of changing flows within a system”. 

Transactional factors of the S.A.T. can be seen as combining into the events and patterns of the Systems Thinking Iceberg Model. Events become patterns when they are repeated in a systematic enough manner that allows them to be forecasted or their cumulative effect influences the larger system. Transactional factors are set within the Structural framework(s) of a system and are constrained by it.

Transactional is the process of interactions but for me has a slightly different definition from that used by the Systems Practice course. The course seems to limit the definition to key people or the leaders at all levels as they deal with important social, political and economic issues whether they be essential negotiations, violence, problem-solving, influence, or leadership. Examples of key Transactional factors provided by the course include lobbying by human rights activists, the influence of a community elder, mediation by a member of Parliament, or extreme political rhetoric by a religious leader. I don’t see a reason to limit the definition to Grass-tops and not include Grass-root efforts even if they must often occur at a more aggregated level to make a noticeable impact.

What is implied but not made explicit, or at least I will assert that it should be, is that transactional factors involve at least a two-sided interaction though not always apparent. That the interaction must be iterated to become a pattern and that will invariably occur within, through or be supported by some Structural factor or factors.

Those Transactional factors unsupported by Structural factors will be far less sustainable than those that are and far less likely to reach a persistent pattern. It should be noted that an iterated persistent pattern does not mean repeated exact copies, patterns of transactional factors can be modified and systems can evolve.

A Transactional example of extreme political rhetoric could be effective not because it directly changed the structure of a system but because it influenced Attitudinal concerns of the populous which in turn brought changes to the Structural factors of the system though that would have to be through Transactional factors.

Transactional factors do not accumulate as stocks but can define the inflows into and outflows out of stocks. Transactions cannot be a stock. Subsequent transactions may reinforce a pattern of transactions but they replace the previous transaction. Transactions can only influence flows into or out of a stock.

Attitudinal factors are akin to the Mental Model level of the Iceberg, encompassing the attitudes, beliefs, morals, expectations, and values, which are often subconscious or unconscious. They are set by means by which people adapt or acquiesce to the patterns of transactions which if unchecked or unquestioned then allow those established structures to continue functioning through the same continuing pattern of transactions.

The category Attitudinal within S.A.T. relates to widely held beliefs, values, norms, and intergroup relations that affect how large groups of people think and behave e.g., ethnic tensions, social capital, fears, group trauma, religious beliefs, and attitudes like trust in government or a belief in “rugged individualism” and can be non-physical stocks. However, these invariably arise from the Structural and Transactional factors and can be in turn applied to them as well.

If Attitudinal shifts cannot bring changes to Structural factors through a shift in Transactional patterns or vice-versa then that Structural factor may make the system, to use a term used before, entrenched requiring far greater leverage from factors that may not exist as of yet. This can be true even if the Structural factor is not formal or even apparent.

There is a difference between individual social beliefs or what the course calls Attitudinal and what might be termed structural norms of institutions which are not human. All belief is human and although individually based can be aggregated. The later structural norms are not as dependent upon individuals in regard to short, mid-term or sometimes even long-term existence of the system. This is part of the reason why many institutional systems can become entrenched.

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