Understanding the system | Te mōhio ki te pūnaha

Systems thinking makes sense of the complexity of the world by looking at the linkages and interactions between parts, rather than by studying parts individually.

Rather than reacting to individual problems that arise, a systems thinker will ask about relationships to other activities within the system, look for patterns over time and understand root causes. This helps them find the most influential points for intervention and change.[1]

Map the system you are dealing with to uncover the reasons for the problems you are dealing with. Mapping the system can help to understand it, bring people together and clarify how you got here from a historical perspective.

While mapping the system, you may realise that you do not have all the information you need. Understanding the different elements of the system and their interrelationships will also help you define the problems that you’re dealing with. You could look at elements like population, energy consumption, water quality, water use, health indicators and air quality.

The following resources provide insights on enabling system change:

Announcing 'Voices from the Frontlines: Community-Driven Pathways for Systems Change in Aotearoa'(external link) — Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono

Leverage points: Places to intervene in a system(external link) — Donella Meadows

Iceberg model(external link) — Ecochallenge.org

Wellbeing economy policy design guide [PDF 855 KB](external link) — Wellbeing Economy Alliance

Look back and out in order to move forward

Transitions bring with them a history of relationships, values, experiences, impacts, hopes and fears. This whakapapa lineage needs to be expressed, understood and acknowledged. It is important to create a safe space and allow time to talk with participants about the transition and what has gone before.

[1] Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation(external link) — Springer Link