On the basis of the author’s latest book, Systemic Planning, this paper addresses systems thinking and complexity in the context of planning. Specifically, renewal of planning thinking on this background is set out as so-called systemic planning (SP). The principal concern of SP is to provide principles and methodology that can be helpful for planning under circumstances characterized by complexity and uncertainty. It is argued that compared to conventional planning — referred to as systematic planning — there is a need for a wider, more systemic approach to planning that is better suited to current real-world planning problems, often characterized by complex issues.
This paper combines insights from literature on complex systems theory and the conjunctive state, applies them to new challenges facing public administrators in metropolitan areas, and tests them in a case study of the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County (POALAC). The argument is advanced that administrative networks, shared governance, and co-production of public services developed in the conjunctive state are real-world exemplars of the emergent properties of complex adaptive systems (CAS). As the production of social capital and public trust of government decline in response to the increasing inability of hierarchical, top-down, command-and-control institutions to solve complex societal problems, the fundamental nature of associations and relations among citizens, policy makers, civic leaders, and government is changing in metropolitan areas as government slowly shifts toward governance. The case study of POALAC reveals a coordinated networked administrative response to the complexity of regional law enforcement consistent with theoretical predictions.
In cases of flooding many authorities and organizations become involved and it can be a problem to take in the whole situation and have a common picture when many incidents are happening at the same time. There is also a lack of efficient tools that show critical buildings and constructions in combination with actual and forecasted water levels. When handling critical situations people face challenges of complexity, uncertainty, and unpredictably. Such management and decision-making activities are normally supported by various models and support tools. However, complexity is normally not explicitly addressed in such models and tools. In this paper we analyze and discuss different kinds of complexity, which are a challenge in critical situations caused by flooding.
Healthcare can be characterized as a complex adaptive system. New Zealand is recognized as having one of the highest rates of enmeshed clinical information and communication technology within this complex system. This paper describes the implementation of an integrated series of electronic clinical health knowledge management systems in a large New Zealand District Health Board. In combination with standard project management, the core implementation team utilized an action research reflective learning approach to enhance their capability to cope with emergent issues, and plan for each subsequent project stage. The emergent focus on “process” issues of connectedness, competency, and control were not the “technical” concerns the principal author was initially expecting, but can be understood through an appreciation of individual and group dynamics, system and complexity theories. In particular, mutual empathy for both self and others was identified as a core capability requirement to cope with the inherent ambiguity within complex systems.
Internationally, cognitive behavioral theories form the foundation of work with offenders, because they have proved to be the most effective in bringing about changes and reducing levels of reoffending. As with any theory, the original theory has been consistently modified and adapted in attempts to make it even more effective at bringing about behavioral changes in offenders. This paper first gives an overview of cognitive behavioral theory, seeing how its linear approach has cut it off from wider perspectives that might make it more effective. It also develops an understanding of criminal behavior from a complexity viewpoint. From there it examines from a complexity perspective the work of the Community Probation Service in New Zealand, which uses a cognitive behavioral approach, and the recently completed pilot of the restorative justice system, bringing offender and victim together in a mediated forum. An effective complex adaptive system has strong autonomy and efficient connectivity. If any member of a community violates the autonomy or connectivity of another, a crime is committed. Work with offenders and victims focuses on restoring the autonomy and connectivity of those involved and the whole community, better enabling the dynamics of self-organization to reemerge. Offenders are seen as developing schemas supported by cognitive distortions that allow them to bypass the barriers that keep most of us from offending. If an existing maladaptive schema can be carefully destabilized, it can enable the formation of a new, more effective schema that does not include offending behaviors.
Indigenous tribal groups can operate as complex adaptive systems. Tribal members are then autonomous agents interacting intensely among themselves and with their environment. Technology, social structure, economics, education, and so on develop over time to help the tribe maintain its fitness within its environment. These developments may be due to chance discoveries, the operation of natural selection, and under certain critical conditions the intense interactions may enable the emergence of higher levels of social complexity. At times when the environment becomes less favorable for human habitation, the means of subsistence regresses to earlier forms, which necessitates a similar regression in the social structure binding the society together. This paper examines the three tribes living in the South Island of New Zealand between 1250 and 1800 ad. The three tribes were named Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe, and Kaitahu. They had to cope with changes in climate, food, and resources, as well as intra- and inter-tribal threats. Particularly during the latter stages, there was intense competition for the more productive land and sea areas. On the Chatham Islands, some 800 kilometers to the East of the South Island, the Moriori people formed their own distinctive culture, which will also be examined. The Moriori, who descended from the Maori people of New Zealand, lived in an even more harsh and isolated environment than the Maori, which significantly shaped their distinctive culture.
This paper documents the findings of research into a rare example of successful school-based education reform. The reform commenced within the South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services in 1999 and is ongoing. It drew explicitly on systems thinking in establishing change principles. Subsequent research into “what worked” reinforced the value of following practices consistent with loosely coupled and complex systems theory. This paper compares the approach adopted in South Australia with the more commonly adopted managerialist or so-called new public management approaches and elaborates on the relevance of complexity as a base for planning and implementing reform. The paper demonstrates that complex systems ideas have profound implications for the policy underpinning institutional change and provides evidence of their relevance and value in practice.
Ecology is the foundation of the methods used in conservation, pest, rangeland, forest and fisheries management. A theme among many ecologists is the need to justify the science as a rigorous discipline. Coupled with this is the notion that physics represents an ideal model of a rigorous science. To that end recent discussions in the literature have placed emphasis on identifying Laws of ecology. In particular, Malthusian growth has been identified as a prime candidate for an ecological law, and much has been written favorably comparing the expression to Newton’s laws of motion. Malthusian growth is shown here to be a poor example of a potential ecological law, largely due its numerous ceteris paribus conditions and lack of universality. In fact, as a simple linear model, Malthusian growth fails to adequately address the nonlinear complexities that make ecology such a rich and fascinating discipline. Ecological theory would do well to ignore comparisons to other sciences and focus on explaining the complex dynamics within ecology.
This paper describes how complexity theory can be applied to itself at a metaphorical level to generate ideas about complexity, including proposals for modeling the evolution of complexity theory and treating computer modeling as a part of complexity theory, not just a medium of its expression. Proposals for more rigorous application of complexity theory to itself include studying the fitness of ideas within complexity theory, using various proxies for measuring those ideas, studying the autocatalysis of ideas, estimating the fractal geometry, and developing general computer models of complexity theory.
This paper presents a discussion of the possible influence of incomputability and the incompleteness of mathematics as a source of apparent emergence in complex systems. The suggestion is made that the analysis of complex systems as a specific instance of a complex process may be subject to inaccessible ‘emergence’. We discuss models of computation associated with transcending the limits of traditional Turing systems, and suggest that inquiry into complex systems in the light of the potential limitations of incomputability and incompleteness may be worthwhile.
This paper is the text of a presentation to the 1st International Workshop on Complexity and Policy Analysis delivered by Gerald Midgley and transcribed and edited by Kurt Richardson. It charts the development of systems thinking since the 1960s, identifying a number of different systems paradigms. These are then compared with paradigms in complexity research, and significant parallels are identified. It is argued that there are several interacting research communities (including those writing about complexity, systems thinking and cybernetics) that have the potential to learn from one another. A research program on systemic intervention is then presented, focusing on the need to think critically about boundaries and values as a means of dealing with the inevitable lack of comprehensiveness in systemic interventions. A rationale for methodological pluralism is also given. All through the paper, the theoretical and methodological ideas are illustrated with practical examples.
Complexity science literature abounds with anecdotes from the life sciences. Ants, termites, birds, and bees have been a popular choice of metaphor and provided inspiration in the development of simulations beneficial to learning and technological development. Recently, however, references like these seem to have dwindled. Perhaps through the overuse of anecdotes regarding such social insects, ants and termites have lost their impact and appeal, become clichéd, and, for some, even the subject of derision. But is their possible fall from grace fair? Recent research suggests not. This paper argues in favor of ants, termites, birds, and bees, presenting findings from a year-long study engaging 13 participants in interviews and the writing of qualitative diaries, showing that ants, among other species, do have a place. That place is wrapped up in the emotional and intellectual experience of individuals’ learning about and developing an interest in complexity science.
A common assumption in the ‘modern’ era is that ‘being connected’ can only be a good thing for individuals and for businesses, and even nation states and continents. This short article aims to explore this assumption with the use of Boolean networks. Although the research presented here is in its early stages, it already demonstrates that there is a balance to be met between connectivity and performance, and that being well-connected does not necessarily lead to desirable network performance attributes.
I was looking for a job. A friend had suggested I contact the local economic development corporation and see what I could rouse. Since I’ve been working in the world of social entrepreneurs and social enterprise, I looked at the EDC web site with an eye to this particular form of social business making. Not […]