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Systems Thinking, Workshops and Events

Applications of Systems Thinking in the Third Sector

On Friday, I attended a half-day event run by the OR Society as it was an opportunity to hear from people who are using systems approaches to address community and social issues and to discuss the potential and the challenges of such approaches. Systems thinking is a powerful way of understanding the world, and accordingly, systems approaches can be powerful ways of addressing real-world problems.

Speakers included Gerald Midgley, Professor of Systems Thinking at Hull University Business School, talking about resolving stakeholder conflict in a range of community settings; Miles Weaver from Edinburgh Napier University on how systems approaches have helped identify better ways for communities and socially responsible businesses to build value; Penny Lawrence, Deputy Director of Oxfam, on applying systems thinking to Oxfam’s change programme; and Rob Abercombie, Director of Research and Consultancy at New Philanthropy Capital, discussing key lessons from the NPC/Lankelly Chase study of systems change for addressing social problems.

Gerald presented some interesting case study examples from his work in New Zealand, of workshop based approaches for engaging stakeholders with diverse views. He showed how involving decision-makers in the stakeholder engagement processes built a far better understanding of the options that might be viable. I felt his approach had a lot in common with my experience of using OpenStrategies.

Miles’s presentation looked at how one project in Scotland had used a systems approach to bring together those with funds and those needing funds.

Penny’s discussion of the way Oxfam is re-framing its role as an aid organisation was fascinating because one of the models she used had parallels with one I’ve discussed before on different types of project. I’ve overlaid the 4 project types (Obeng’s Model) on Penny’s model:Oxfam - Tools to aid navigation

Penny’s best quote, in my opinion, was: “It’s not about money, it’s about the change you seek“.

Rob talked about some of the elements in NPC’s Systems Change Guide which was published in 2015 and of which he was a co-author. He reminded us that the power of Systems Thinking is as a perspective, not as a method.

 

The slides and talks will be available to view here on the OR Society’s website.

Read more about my work with Third Sector organisations.

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