Systems Thinking For Social Change: A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results

Systems Thinking For Social Change: A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results

by David Peter Stroh


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781603585804
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date: 10/16/2015
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 294,382
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

David Peter Stroh is a founding partner of Bridgeway Partners ( and a founding director of He was also one of the founders of Innovation Associates, the consulting firm whose pioneering work in the area of organizational learning formed the basis for fellow cofounder Peter Senge’s management classic The Fifth Discipline. David is internationally recognized for his work in enabling people to apply systems thinking to achieve breakthroughs around chronic, complex problems and to develop strategies that improve system-wide performance over time.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 Systems Thinking for Social Change

Chapter 1 Why Good Intentions Are Not Enough 13

Distinguishing Conventional from Systems Thinking

Refining the Definition of Systems Thinking

Closing the Loop

Chapter 2 Systems Thinking Inside: A Catalyst for Social Change 19

How Systems Thinking Meets Four Challenges of Change

When to Use Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking for Collective Impact

Closing the Loop

Chapter 3 Telling Systems Stories 29

Storytelling for Social Change

Shaping a Systems Story

The Elements of Systems Structure

Closing the Loop

Chapter 4 Deciphering the Plots of Systems Stories 45

Basic Plot Lines

The Plots Thicken

The Stories Behind the Story

Closing the Loop

Part 2 The Four-Stage Change Process

Chapter 5 An Overview of the Four-Stage Change Process 71

Convening and Thinking Systemically

The Four-Stage Change Process

Closing the Loop

Chapter 6 Building a Foundation for Change 79

Engage Key Stakeholders

Establish Common Ground

Build Collaborative Capacity

Closing the Loop

Chapter 7 Facing Current Reality: Building Understanding Through Systems Mapping 91

Establish Systems Interviews

Organize Information

Develop a Preliminary Systems Analysis

How to Balance Simplicity and Complexity

Closing the Loop

Chapter 8 Facing Current Reality: Building Support by Bringing the System to Life 123

Engage People in Developing Their Own Analysis

Surface Mental Models

Create Catalytic Conversations

Closing the Loop

Chapter 9 Making an Explicit Choice 137

Understand Payoffs to the Existing System

Compare the Case for Change with the Case for the Status Quo

Create Both/and Solutions-or Make a Trade-Off

Make an Explicit Choice

What Can You Do When People Are Still Not Aligned?

Closing the Loop

Chapter 10 Bridging the Gap 147

Identify High-Leverage Interventions

Establish a Process for Continuous Learning and Outreach

How to Integrate Multiple Interventions

Closing the Loop

Part 3 Shaping the Future

Chapter 11 Systems Thinking for Strategic Planning 167

Two Systemic Theories of Change

Organizing Leverage Points

Integrating Success Factors

Streamlining Choices

How to Refine Your Systemic Theory of Change

Closing the Loop

Chapter 12 Systems Thinking for Evaluation 195

General Systemic Guidelines

Specific Recommendations

Tracking Success Amplification

Tracking Goal Achievement

Closing the Loop

Chapter 13 Becoming a Systems Thinker 205

Develop a Systems Orientation

Learn by Doing

Ask Systemic Questions

Closing the Loop

Acknowledgments 214

Appendix A Vicious Cycles of Climate Change 217

Appendix B Sample Interview Questions for Specific Projects 219

Appendix C Multiple-Archetype Diagrams 222

Appendix D Additional Resources 227

Notes 230

Index 238

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