Argue for a “systems thinking” approach to making progress on a sustainability issue your audience is addressing
Your paper should argue for a “systems thinking” approach to making progress on a
sustainability issue your audience is addressing or should be addressing. Your
audience should be a particular organization, community, government, business,
“seed” project etc.of your choosing.
Begin by choosing a sustainability issue/problem/situation taken from your experience,
reading, one of the “seeds” we examined at the beginning of class or another source.
Pair the sustainability issue with one of the “system wisdoms” described by Meadows
in Chapter 7. This “wisdom” should be used as a “framing device” – a theme
introduced at the beginning, appearing in the body of your text, and revisited at the
end. This may take a bit of time to emerge and feel free to consult with me.
The paper should be concise and short, no more than 4 pages. Use no smaller than
11pt type, double spaced, and no less than 1in margins. Illustrations, graphics are
encouraged and don’t count towards the page limit – refer to them in the text, but put
them at the end of the paper.
Systems diagrams are particularly valued – you can draw them by hand or use
technology (powerpoint works pretty well.) If you use an archetype, the System
Archetypes Basics paper has good templates.
Some more detail about things I’ll be looking for in your paper:
• Address your paper to the audience you’ve chosen. You should be giving them
advice and trying to convince them of the value of your systems thinking approach to
the problem you’ve chosen and the are, or should be, interested in.
• Use one of the “systems wisdoms” from Chapter 7 to “frame” your paper – to supply
an overall theme or approach. This is a good way to make the paper more
memorable to a reader. And it can also provide an overall theme that helps with the
• Describe the issue and the “system of concern”:
• Describe the “system of concern” including a description of the system boundary.
Feel free to use diagrams here as well. Chapter 1 is relevant, but also our
discussion in class of the role of system boundaries.
• Bring in other systems thinking ideas, themes, tools from Chapters 1 to 6 to
describe and analyze the context of the problem. For example:
• Chapter 1: The Basics: especially feedbacks.
• Chapter 2: Why Systems Work So Well: Resilience, Self-Organization (note the
Ostrom’s design principles describe contexts in which Self-Organization arises),
• Chapter 3: Why Systems Surprise: Linear Minds in a Nonlinear World, Layers of
Limits, Ubiquitous Delays, Bounded Rationality.
• The system archetypes / traps described in “System Archetypes Basics” and/or
• Follow Meadow’s lead and try to use the systems language in a way that would
appeal to your audience.
• Again, using diagrams here is encouraged.
• Suggest a “systems thinking” approach to your audience.
• Argue for a “systems thinking” approach to the problem throughout; perhaps a
solution, perhaps just a way to move towards a solution, for example by getting out
of a trap (using Meadow’s “The Way Out” suggestions, or class discussion) or using
leverage points or the strategies derived from archetypes in our class activities.
• Does your example involve a Common Pool Resource? If so, argue that you have a
CPR and try to use Ostrom’s “Design Principles” to describe how to create the
condition for responsible self-management or that such conditions cannot be
created and regulation or privatization are the best approaches