Systemic Approaches to Engagement, Inquiry, and Change
Systemic approaches to engagement, inquiry, and change use systems thinking and systems approaches. Read Gene Bellinger's explanation of systems thinking.
Systems thinking alone will only take us so far in increasing our understanding of how systems operate or improving our ability to transform those systems to produce the results we want. To achieve these aims, we need to use one of the many varieties of systems approaches that have developed since the 1940s. See the section below.
View a diagram that displays the historical development of different systems approaches.
Varieties of systems approaches
Systems approaches can be categorized as hard, soft, and critical.
Hard systems approaches are primarily quantitative, and view systems as entities that exist in the real world. They include:
- System dynamics
- Principia Cybernetica is an international collaboration of scientists in the field of cybernetics and systems science. Visit the Principia Cybernetica website.
- Complexity science
- Social network analysis
Soft systems approaches are qualitative, and view systems as mental constructs that are useful for understanding situations. They include:
Critical systems approaches, like soft systems approaches, are qualitative and view systems as mental constructs. Critical systems approaches were created because of the perceived failure of hard and soft systems approaches to take into account power relations. They include:
- Critical systems heuristics
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