Applying "systems thinking" to program planning

This solution addresses programs and projects initiated without a systems approach in USA for project and program beneficiaries

Problem Description

"Lewis Thomas, the award-winning medical essayist, observed, 'When you are confronted by any complex social system… with things about it that you’re dissatisfied with and anxious to fix, you cannot just step in and set about fixing with much hope of helping. This is one of the sore discouragements of our time' (The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher, 1979). For instance, a linear approach to starvation might lead donors to assume that sending food aid solves the problem. However, thinking about it in a systemic way would raise concerns about such unintended consequences as depressed local food prices that deter local agricultural development and leave a country even more vulnerable to food shortages in the future. From a systemic view, temporary food aid only exacerbates the problem in the long run unless it is coupled with supports for local agriculture. Quoted from: https://thesystemsthinker.com/acting-and-thinking-systemically/

Building Blocks

Story

"Because the problems addressed by many organizations are exceedingly complex, one step they can take to increase the social return on their investments is to think systemically (vs. linearly). Of the three major programming functions – planning, implementation, and evaluation – systems thinking can play an especially important role in improving planning.

Based on the insight that non-obvious system dynamics often seduce us into doing what is expedient but ultimately ineffective, the Food and Fitness (F&F) initiative of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) followed these steps in taking a comprehensive systems approach to planning, implementing, and evaluating the program. Initial planning began in 2004, and the first work with systems thinking in the field started in 2007. Implementation continues today in nine communities throughout the U. S."

Quoted from: https://thesystemsthinker.com/acting-and-thinking-systemically/

Resources

Organisations Involved

Solution Stage

One of the 7 stages of an innovation. Learn more
STAGE SPECIALIST SKILLS REQUIRED EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES RISK LEVEL AND HANDLING FINANCE REQUIRED KINDS OF EVIDENCE GENERATED GOAL
Developing and implementing5
Strong leadership, management, implementation skills
  • Policy design
  • Programme design
  • Business modelling
  • Organisational design
  • Prepare for some adaptation to implementation
MEDIUM
  • Programme funds, equity, loans, grants
HIGH
A robust and detailed case developed through formal evaluation and evidence gathering – use of a control group to isolate impact
An implemented and sustainable innovation
Activity