Systems Thinking

Navigating the complexity of wicked problems

Some of yesterday's attempts to fix wicked problems generated unforeseen consequences ...but not right away. Too often what works in the short-term makes things worse in the long-term, and what works in the long-term makes things worse in the short-term, leaving us confused and frustrated with our attempts to solve the problems. Systems thinking helps us create a shared picture of not only what is happening but also why, and create a shared commitment to the possible solutions.

Recommended Reading

The Leader's New Work: Building Learning Organizations
By Peter Senge
Excerpt from MIT "Sloan Management Review"

Leveraging Change: The Power of Systems Thinking in Action
By David Peter Stroh
Excerpt from "Organisational Learning for All Seasons"

The Dawn of Systems Leadership
By Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton and John Kania
"Stanford Social Innovation Review"

The Work of Leadership
By Ronald A. Heifetz and Donald L. Laurie
"Harvard Business Review"

Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World
By John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell
"Stanford Social Innovation Review"

Learning from Evidence in a Complex World
By John D. Sterman, PhD
"American Journal of Public Health"

Past Presentations

Tackling Wicked Problems 2014: Systems Thinking by Michael Goodman (presentation slides)

Tackling Wicked Problems 2014: Systems Thinking Shifting the Burden (flipchart notes)

Introduction to Systems Thinking for Social Change by Michael Goodman (Forward Community Investments webinar)

2015 Tackling Wicked Problems Driving Community Change: Deeper Dive by Michael Goodman (presentation slides)

2015 Tackling Wicked Problems Supporting Community Change: Funders' Perspective by Michael Goodman (presentation slides)

2015 Tackling Wicked Problems Increasing Organizational Impact: Board Role by Michael Goodman (presentation slides)

2015 Tackling Wicked Problems Systems Thinking: Thinking and Acting Differently by Michael Goodman (presentation slides)

Case Studies

Greater Battle Creek Homeless Coalition Health
Michigan's long-standing Battle Creek Homeless Coalition combines an extensive multi-sector community organizing process with systems thinking to create a ten-year plan to end homelessness.

A Systemic Approach to Ending Homelessness
By David Peter Stroh and Michael Goodman
"Applied Systems Thinking Journal"

Homelessness in Calhoun County Decreased by 14% over Six Years
Greater Battle Creek Homeless Coalition Case Study Revisited
Leverage Networks article by Carolyn Neihaus and Kris Wile

ReThink Health
A collaborative flagship initiative of the Rippel Foundation, ReThink Health works with communities to help them foster catalytic leadership and test innovative ideas for bridging and redesigning their health and health care systems.

Summary of ReThink Health Dynamics Model

2015 Tackling Wicked Problems ReThink Health: Pueblo ReThinks its Health System (presentation slides)

Pueblo Triple Aim Logic Model

County Officials Embark on New, Collective Endeavors to ReThink Their Local Health Systems
By Bobby Milstein, Gary Hirsch and Karen Minyard
Excerpt from "the Journal of County Administration"

Rippel Foundation: Impact and the Role of Philanthropy (webinar)
By Laura Landy, President & CEO

ReThink Health Website

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