In my last blog I was talking about being aware of different perspectives.  Actually perspectives is a key principle of systems thinking.  I’m doing a lot of reading on systems thinking at the moment and reacquainting myself with three key systems concepts: Inter-relationships, Perspectives and Boundaries.  This is because Bob Williams and Sjon van’t Hof have published an excellent little book called “Wicked Solutions” that should hopefully open up systems thinking to development and humanitarian aid planners and make it more accessible.

© AF-studio / iStock

© AF-studio / iStock

Inter-relationships is all about how things connect with each other.  Which organisation is connected to another organisation, which funders are funding or working with which NGOs and how do these relationships then go on to affect intervention design.

Perspectives are about the different ways a situation (or problem / issue) can be understood.  What is the perspective of the main organisations in a sector in a country? What is the perspective of the beneficiaries and smaller NGOs? What is the view of the donor?

Boundaries refer to what you include in your intervention design (or evaluation, or monitoring data) and what you leave out.  That’s where you draw the boundary around your work.  What you leave out is just as important as what you leave in.

Being aware of these three principles, and how they affect your programme design is crucial and makes sticking to my 5 key rules for good programme design so much easier.

Bob has previously written about these three key systems concepts, and I urge you to head on over to Bob Williams’ site and purchase his new book “Wicked Solutions” and work through the exercises for yourself.  It will lift the lid on how you design and plan interventions!

Have you used systems thinking to design your interventions before?  Does your organisation encourage systems thinking? How can you encourage others to let you use systems thinking in your work?


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