Governments, schools, and public and private corporations across the world are gravitating toward the idea of a systems thinking view of planning. They see it as an improved approach to problem solving, or a way to understand increasing complexity and, more recently, a road to integrating policy development and execution. This forum has as one of its purposes to build on this intention and existing efforts and bring a new level of practice to systems thinking work.
The new level of practice is based in moving from systems thinking applied to problem solving and mitigation alone, to a level which embodies a non-reductionist approach that overcomes the fragmentation and silo nature of work when systems thinking is carried out inside a separate ministry or functional group. This isolated practice of work often leads to conflicts and a call for integration of the fragmentation. The new level of practice calls for working from a framework that prevents the fragmentation from the outset. It moves planning out of the need for re-integrating and the focus only on reducing disorder, into being a process of working toward a higher order from the outset and improving the capacity of systems to regenerate themselves. We will refer to this new mode as Holistic Systems Thinking, because it works with wholes and not parts from the beginning.
Defining systems thinking and its role in policy development and implementation
Think about the human body. It has systems and is a nested aspect of greater systems. It has cardiovascular, digestive, and other systems. It also exists in an ecosystem and may move from one to another over a period of time. It also exists in a political system and is affected by and affects it. Systems are always nested because they are exchanging energies across the boundaries; and when working well they ensure vitality and viability with one another. Any one system, such as the cardiovascular system has specific work to do to ensure the on-going regenerative health of the whole of which it is apart. When that one system does not do its job, or cannot because it is compromised, the larger system suffers and even fails. The same is true for the human being. He or she has work to do in the larger…