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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Systems Practice Perspective of Radicalism and a Jerusalem Vision

In the last post, the idea of more directly addressing the challenges of living with the complex, wicked challenge of Palestinian/Jewish relationships in the City of Jerusalem using a Systems Practice approach was put forward. The last post focused more on the Systems Practice methodology itself rather than any particular complex issue it was meant to address. This post will focus that methodology back on the topic of Palestinian/Jewish relations in Jerusalem with the perhaps arguably idealistic goal of finding a new Jerusalem Vision. That lens though will still be abstract and conceptual in nature looking to the underlying forces that contribute to the detrimental impacts on those living within that shared system.

The focus is also still going to be limited. Beyond the Acumen/Omidyar Group Systems Practice projects being academic exercises, they are also in their short time span inadequate in reflecting the full complexity of the system or situations arising within that system. While this can be actually true of all systems and the system models which we create to help understand them, repeating yet again, "All models are wrong, some models are useful", it is especially true in this instance as we did not include a Palestinian perspective. This has been recognized as a missing piece of the story.

Furthermore, while complications and the often stochastic nature of the real world have hampered efforts to implement any of the different Systems Practice projects in that real world, it was also true that complications and the often stochastic nature of the real world prevented the unhampered implementation of the Systems Practice methodology itself.

Even if Systems Practice is seen, at least by me, as a playbook more than a philosophy, I would assert that it is a playbook navigating non-linear processes. In the first project, I threw a wrench into the process by mapping too early though it should be noted that the process dictated by the methodology did recover. The Systems Practice process, however, has never unfolded precisely as described by the manual. Not that Systems Practice doesn't recognize this, it is not a strictly paint-by-numbers process and such detours may provide helpful insights.

The third assignment in the Acumen Systems Practice course is on Upstream Downstream SAT Analysis on different Themes. As mentioned in the last post, our individual internal maps were disaggregated and the factors making them up were collected without any of the connecting relationships unique to each then categorized as enabling or inhibiting and upstream or downstream. For the most part, our individual mental models were largely abandoned in terms of the process.

The exception was our team leader, Yoel Ben-Avraham. After going through the process of categorizing factors and applying a S.A.T. analysis to them, Yoel felt that something fundamental to our understanding was still missing, something that the Systems Practice methodology had not brought forward. A theme of Radicalism as perceived from a Jewish perspective was seen as missing. As far as I understood, Yoel created his theme first and then populate it with factors which were then categorized instead of starting with factors.

It has been recognized from the start that I and everybody else except for Yoel were outside of the story and that while Yoel and I had discussed or debated different issues having different mindsets I determined to assist him in fleshing out this perspective by mapping out his text-based analysis shown below which was more in line with assignment four. Finally, I got to map.

The Kumu systems map  revealed by this link focuses on the Radicalism theme fully populated when opened. The map is formatted in such a manner that one can mouse over the listed loops, R1 through R11, making up the map to reveal their location. This approach of mapping out somebody else's differing perspective of an issue has been undertaken before. The intention is to have the process of mapping reveal how the factors could be related to each other resulting in unforeseen emergent outcomes. This depends though on honestly and correctly mapping them without bias. In this case, as with others done before, the attempt was seen as successful by the other involved party.

What might be first noticed about the mapped out version of the Assignment 3 above is that the terms Upstream Causes and Downstream Effects become somewhat moot. All of the factors have been integrated into causal loops which are linked together so every factor serves as both upstream cause and downstream effect.

The Radicalism theme, as presented, is also self-contained. As it consists of factors related, interdependently with each other for a purpose or function, Radicalism can be seen as a system in its own right. There is required neither a significant source of input from outside of the system or significant output from the system allowing for meaningful feedback permitting change. The system by the interaction of its parts is self-sustaining and resilient. It is what has been referred to as an entrenched system except that it is in conflict with its larger environment rather than being an entrenched institutionalized you-can’t-fight-city-hall type system usually considered.

With the Radicalism theme systems map, one can also start with the loop R1 Alienation, click on the "Focus on" link at the top of the narrative section and "walk around" the loop through the narrative. The loop is seen as reinforcing in a "vicious" manner or functioning to make matters worse in terms of reaching the project's Guiding Star. The factors are all seen as inhibiting and from the S.A.T. perspective as attitudinal except for Arab Educational Indoctrination which is seen as transactional. The narrative for the individual factors comes primarily from Yoel's S.A.T. analysis but interpretations were made. Indoctrination was seen as referring to the transactions between teachers and students rather than the structural aspects of an Arab educational system.

Both the factors Alienation of Palestinians and Alienation of Jews are seen as being attitudinal and as being stocks despite them being of a non-physical nature as defined by Donella Meadows. The level of alienation in either populace can increase or decrease and cannot change instantaneously.

The connections can then be considered as flows. The flow out of the stock Alienation of Palestinians into the stock Alienation of Jews raises that stock though it does not decrease the Palestinian stock, as it is raised by the outflow from Alienation of Jews stock. External factors also influence the flow into and out of the two stocks acting as catalysts to enhance the maintaining of higher stock levels. There is not a systemic means of diminishing either of the stocks or relieving pressure from the flows, which if were made to exist could be seen as being contrary to the perceived function of the theme.

Going back to the R1 Alienation narrative, if necessary by clicking on the text in the middle of the loop within the map section, one can go to the bottom of the narrative and click on "Go to: R2" and add on the second loop, R2 Economic Slowdown. While Alienation of Palestinians is not seen as the sole causal factor of an Economic Slowdown and Economic Slowdown is not seen as the sole causal factor of Palestinian Alienation, their mutual relationship is seen as being highly correlated enough to be considered causal in nature for the purposes of the map.

Repeating the process to reveal the R3 loop Destruction of Palestinian Homes. This ties directly into the R1 Alienation loop. The factor in question is seen as transactional. There is a structural factor on the Israeli side involved but it is arguably outside of the theme based Radicalism system being considered.

More loops can be added using the same process. The loop R5 (Palestinian) Religious and Secular Leadership asserts that after three causal steps, (factor - connection - factor or what Kumu terms degrees) the loop R3 Destruction of Palestinian Homes is shown actually increasing overall alienation and entrenching what could be considered detrimental policies from the Jewish perspective. Continuation of loops into pattern of persistent causality further asserts the means by which the institutionalized system of Religious and Secular Leadership maintains control without the potential for adequate input to bring about change or to provide a platform for a different perspective.

Once the theme Radicalism is fully populated by the causal loops making it up, one can return to Start Page and add either one of two additional themes or both. The two themes are Extremist Violence and Transition and Accommodation of Values. While neither of the themes contains feedback loops, not all systems have feedback loops according to Donella Meadows’ book Thinking in Systems, A Primer (page 27), both integrate seamlessly into the Radicalism theme extending it.

The Extremist Violence theme exacerbates the vicious aspects of the Radicalism theme, while the theme of Transition and Accommodation of Values is shown to be inadequate to positively change the direction of the Radicalism theme.

This will be the last post for a while on Systems Practice in general and specifically on the Jerusalem Vision project. The Systems Practice methodology has been demonstrated to be a useful contribution to Systems Thinking and Direct Democracy. However, a review of Haaretz articles revealed the deep, inherent political complications assailing any efforts toward change. The Systems Practice process on its own would not be enough. Other steps would be required by the people who live within that system to implement new community paradigms.

Past Posts