Martin Reynolds and Sue Holwell

Jul 27, 2021

Systems Approaches to Making Change: A Practical Guide

Springer 2020

Practitioners from all professional domains are increasingly confronted with incidences of systemic failure, yet poorly equipped with appropriate tools and know-how for understanding such failure, and the making of systemic improvement. In our fragile Anthropocene world where ‘systems change’ is often invoked as the rallying call for purposeful alternative action, this book provides a toolkit to help constructively make systems that can change situations for the better.

Reflecting on the decade that has passed since the publication of the first edition of Systems Approaches to Making Change: A Practical Guide (Springer, 2020), Reynolds writes: “Global turbulence and conflict associated with trade wars, terrorism and destabilization have been significantly accentuated in the last 10 years… issues of sustainability are prevalent (ranging) from extensive deforestation of Amazonia… to contentious fracking for continued fossil-fuel extraction amongst more industrialised nations predominantly in the northern hemisphere”. In other words, there has been no easing up when it comes to the big messes that plague us—in fact, the need for effective techniques for making systemic change has no doubt never been greater.

Viable Systems Model, Soft Systems, SODA… oh my! Where should the practitioner start? Which approach should I deploy in my work? What about using more than one model—or perhaps a combination of models? The five approaches outlined in this book offer the systems thinking practitioner a range of interchangeable tools for pro-actively making systemic improvements amidst complex situations of change and uncertainty. Systems Approaches to Change offers an excellent introduction for those seeking to understand systems thinking and to enact systems thinking in practice. The book helps practitioners from all professions to better understand inter-relationships, engage with multiple perspectives, and reflect on boundary judgements that can inhibit or enhance improved purposeful change.

Kevin Lindsay is a 25+ year Silicon Valley software product strategist and marketer, and graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

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