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Adapted from Donella Meadows
What is it?
A system includes three ingredients: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose. Examples of systems are cities, forests, families, and cars - they are all around us. Systems thinking helps us to see the diverse and dynamic relationships between the challenges that we work on and the broader contexts within which they are situated. This can then lead to different insights and possibilities into how we might intervene in systems to get more desirable, durable, and high-impact outcomes.
How is it used?
Systems thinking and practice is useful for getting a more in-depth view into a challenge that you are working on. When a challenge is complex and adaptive, when there is a diversity of opinions about what to do, and when the nature of the problem itself is unclear let alone the path to a solution, systems thinking might be a good approach. It will help with seeing underneath the surface of events and activities, and into patterns of behaviour, structures, behaviours, feedback loops, interconnected elements, and mindsets. This can then guide intervention choices, and help to see the full impacts of those interventions on different parts of the system.Systems approaches aim to make broad, sustained and resilient change that improves the health of the overall system within which you are working.