Chelsea Green Publishing

Systems Thinking For Social Change

Pages:264 pages
Book Art:Black and white images, charts, and graphs
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603585804
Pub. Date October 16, 2015
eBook: 9781603585811
Pub. Date September 24, 2015

Systems Thinking For Social Change

A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
October 16, 2015

$24.95

Availability: In Stock

eBook

Available Date:
September 24, 2015

$24.95 $19.96

Donors, leaders of nonprofits, and public policy makers usually have the best of intentions to serve society and improve social conditions. But often their solutions fall far short of what they want to accomplish and what is truly needed. Moreover, the answers they propose and fund often produce the opposite of what they want over time. We end up with temporary shelters that increase homelessness, drug busts that increase drug-related crime, or food aid that increases starvation.

How do these unintended consequences come about and how can we avoid them? By applying conventional thinking to complex social problems, we often perpetuate the very problems we try so hard to solve, but it is possible to think differently, and get different results.

Systems Thinking for Social Change enables readers to contribute more effectively to society by helping them understand what systems thinking is and why it is so important in their work. It also gives concrete guidance on how to incorporate systems thinking in problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning without becoming a technical expert.

Systems thinking leader David Stroh walks readers through techniques he has used to help people improve their efforts to end homelessness, improve public health, strengthen education, design a system for early childhood development, protect child welfare, develop rural economies, facilitate the reentry of formerly incarcerated people into society, resolve identity-based conflicts, and more. 

The result is a highly readable, effective guide to understanding systems and using that knowledge to get the results you want.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

 “I don't know of another book in this field that presents the ideas of systems thinking in such a clear and practical way, with so many real-world examples."--Janice Molloy, managing editor, Reflections: The SoL NorthAmerica Journal on Knowledge, Learning, and Change

Publishers Weekly-

"This dense volume will be of genuine use to many in the nonprofit world ... Stroh has a valuable insight to impart: Becoming a more effective systems thinker is not just an analytical task 'but also an emotional, physical, and ultimately spiritual one.' For those dedicated enough to stay with Stroh's message, this book will be a useful beginning.”

“Stroh has offered an important gem in his new book, Systems Thinking for Social Change. Both illuminating and immediately useful, the book shares the key dynamics and success factors gleaned from his long career of working with organizations struggling with society’s most persistent issues. A must read for anyone whose aim is to make a difference on the ground.”--Kristina Wile, co-president, Leverage Networks, and managing partner, Systems Thinking Collaborative

“If there is only one book you read on systems thinking, it should be Systems Thinking for Social Change. If you’re new to systems thinking, I consider this a must read. If you’ve been involved in systems thinking for some time and want a renewed and extended perspective, I highly recommend it. Stroh’s new work covers all the relevant areas appropriate for a solid introduction to systems thinking, though it doesn’t stop there. It makes a serious contribution by detailing a number of real-world situations that have been investigated and improved using the approach presented in the book. And it does very well something that I’ve not seen done before: it not only shows how to map the current system, but also shows how to then create a revised map of how the system is intended to work in the future. This approach ends up identifying where measurements should be made on an ongoing basis to ascertain whether the system is undergoing the intended transformation.”--Gene Bellinger, director, Systems Thinking World, Inc.

“The philanthropic sector has shifted from a ‘charity’ mindset to a focus on changing systems to create sustainable change. Systems Thinking for Social Change offers practical tools for those serious about improving communities and organizations. It doesn’t minimize the complexity, but rather empowers social-change agents with tools to understand the complexity and identify the leverage points.”--Teresa Behrens, director, Institute for Foundation and Donor Learning

“Over fifteen years ago, David Stroh was instrumental in introducing systems thinking to the peace-building field, using tools that have proven to be powerful for improving the effectiveness of our work. This book is a valuable resource for our field — a must read for all practitioners who have been seeking practical and easy-to-understand guidance on using systems thinking for conflict analysis and strategic planning for better impacts.”--Diana Chigas, professor of practice, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and co-director of collaborative learning, CDA Collaborative Learning Projects

“This is a must read for public leaders and citizens who are interested in the learning disciplines required for a sustainable, proactive approach to preserving our shared resources.”--Georgianna Bishop, president, The Public Sector Consortium

“For those who have worked for many years in the social-service sector, and who have grown cynical or disillusioned as to whether it is even possible to effect major social change, David Peter Stroh’s book, Systems Thinking for Social Change, is a must read—a clear, thoughtful, and practical guide for those desiring to create lasting social change. But reader beware! Systems thinking is more than a new way of thinking. As Stroh puts it, it is a new way of being. It requires the ability to look at things in a new way, to interact with others differently, to have a clear vision of where you want to go, a willingness to see things the way they are and, finally, the courage to take responsibility for why the system as is isn’t working. If you want to help create long-lasting, effective social change, if you want to say ‘we’re doing it—we’re actually making progress,’ then read this book.”--Anne Miskey, executive director, Funders Together to End Homelessness

“David Stroh, in his invaluable new book, shows that good intentions are not enough for those who aspire to make lasting progress on fundamental social issues—and also how the language and tools of systems theory can provide a deeper understanding of the root causes and help identify the leverage points for productive and sustainable change.”--Russell Eisenstat, executive director, Center for Higher Ambition Leadership

“Societal problems are a swirl of causes, effects, interactions, and contributing relationships.  Yet, too often, simplistic answers are applied by the well-intended that only touch on one strand of what is (in reality) a complex and interconnected web.  Stroh’s work provides an actionable guide on how to model these relationships—and more importantly how to have a meaningful and lasting impact on them.”--Jason E. Glass, superintendent and chief learner, Eagle County Schools 

"With this book Stroh has produced an essential —and long overdue—guide to applied systems thinking. A few well-selected examples of initiatives that turned from ‘working’ to ‘transformative' lay the foundation for how change makers can address chronic, complex social problems and deepen their impact. After helping the reader recognize what might be holding their interventions back, the book moves with ease into ways  of finding leverage, the use of systems stories, and the power of visioning. In Stroh’s capable hands, systems thinking becomes a tool for defining personal or organizational priorities, for planning, and for evaluating success through measurable indicators. But the book is much more than a formidable toolbox from which to draw on a daily basis. It is, at its deeper level, a warm invitation to cultivate systems thinking as 'a way of being, not just doing' so that on the way to long-lasting, desirable outcomes, change makers can become more and more the change they want to see."--Marta Ceroni, executive director, Donella Meadows Institute

“As philanthropic organizations increasingly seek to strengthen their impact, the perspectives, methods, and tools described in Stroh’s book provide us with critical guidance for thinking and action to address complex social problems and for building ‘all-in’ approaches to problem solving. Anyone in government, nonprofits, or philanthropy can benefit from this approach to solutions. And while it might take a lifetime to master the use of systems thinking for social change, reorienting how we think about problems in this way can immediately set us on a new path toward sustainability and greater likelihood of success.”--Lexi Nolen, vice president, Episcopal Health Foundation

“It is not hard for people to appreciate that fragmented, piecemeal efforts to solve complex problems are ineffective. But having concrete approaches to an alternative is another matter. After almost four decades of applying practical systems-thinking tools in diverse settings, David Stroh has produced an elegant and cogent guide to what works. Research with early learners is showing that children are natural systems thinkers. This book will help to resuscitate these intuitive capabilities and strengthen them in the fire of facing our toughest problems.”--Peter Senge, senior lecturer, MIT, and author of The Fifth Discipline 

"Systems Thinking for Social Change uses clear, down-to-earth language to explain and illustrate systems thinking, why it matters, and how it can lead to greater success in the social sector. The book is brief yet deep, big picture yet rigorously analytical. Stroh displays considerable narrative skill, especially when he shares numerous stories from his practice of applying various systems tools that led groups to new and startling conclusions. Reading this book will test the reader substantially, as the author invites us to a deeper level of introspection about our own role in systems failures of every kind—organizational and societal—and gently asks us to embrace a new way, not merely of thinking but of being in the world.  A remarkable book."--David Nee, Growth Philanthropy Network; and former executive director, William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund

"Drawing on a deep well of experience, Stroh masterfully weaves metaphor, story, and practical tools, modeling for us all effective systems thinking in action. Read it and get ready to take your game up a notch."--Linda Booth Sweeney, author of Connected Wisdom, and coauthor of the The Systems Thinking Playbook

“Systems thinking quickly gets very abstract and technical, often underplaying the social and storytelling dimensions. For a long time I’ve been looking for a more practical, readable, and engaging introductory book for my classes. Now, finally, here it is!”--Per Espen Stoknes, author, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming, and senior lecturer at BI Norwegian Business School

“David Peter Stroh has been a pioneer in the effort to bring principles of systems into the service of those striving for constructive social change. (I took a course from him over thirty years ago.) Many books tell you how to engage in systems thinking but not how to apply it. This is a very useful exception. Peter draws on many years of professional engagement with the important problems of our society. Of course reading his book won’t let you banish all those problems. But it will help you focus your effort where you can have the best impact, and it will show you how to enlist others in the effort.”--Dennis Meadows, coauthor, Limits to Growth, and former director, Institute for Policy and Social Science Research 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Peter Stroh

David Peter Stroh is a founding partner of Bridgeway Partners (www.bridgewaypartners.com) and a founding director of www.appliedsystemsthinking.com. 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.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Companies We Keep

Companies We Keep

By John Abrams

Part memoir and part examination of a new business model, the 2005 release of The Company We Keep marked the debut of an important new voice in the literature of American business. Now, in Companies We Keep, the revised and expanded edition of his 2005 work, John Abrams further develops his idea that companies flourish when they become centers of interdependence, or “communities of enterprise.”

Thoroughly revised with an expanded focus on employee ownership and workplace democracy, Companies We Keep celebrates the idea that when employees share in the rewards as well as the responsibility for the decisions they make, better decisions result. This is an especially timely topic. Most of the baby boomer generation—the owners of millions of American businesses— will retire within the next two decades. In 2001, 50,000 businesses changed hands. In 2005, that number rose to 350,000. Projections call for 750,000 ownership transitions in 2009. Employee ownership—in both the philosophical and the practical sense—is gathering steam as businesses change hands, and Abrams examines some of the many ways this is done.

Companies We Keep is structured around eight principles—from “Sharing Ownership” and “Cultivating Workplace Democracy” to “Thinking Like Cathedral Builders” and “Committing to the Business of Place”—that Abrams has discovered in the 32 years since he cofounded South Mountain Company on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Together, these principles reveal communities of enterprise as a potent force of change that can—and will— improve the way Americans do business.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Companies We Keep

John Abrams, William Greider

Paperback $24.95

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

By Stephen Hren and Rebekah Hren

Solar power, once a fringe effort limited to DIY enthusiasts, is now fast becoming mainstream. Many home and business owners are curious about solar electric and solar thermal systems, and wonder how to go about getting a clean energy generation system of their own. The vast majority will hire a professional installer to do the job. But what should they be asking of these installers? What system makes the most sense for their home or office: solar electric, solar hot water, solar heating, or some combination of these?

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office explains the options so that property owners can make the right choices both for their energy needs and their financial security. Understanding how solar power systems work will enable readers to be informed customers when dealing with professional installers-the book also provides advice on how to select a qualified installer and understand the expanding variety of tax credits and other incentives that are popping up around the country.

The market for solar systems has been growing at an exponential rate and strong tax credits ensure continued growth even in a sluggish economy. Many of those who would like to catch this undeniable wave of the future are held back by widespread confusion. A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office clears the air, allowing property owners to move forward with confidence to make their homes and offices more comfortable, environmentally sound, and secure against wild swings in energy prices.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

Stephen Hren, Rebekah Hren

Paperback $14.95

Exposed

Exposed

By Mark Schapiro

From tainted pet food to toxic toys, Americans can thank the successful lobbying efforts of the U.S. chemical industry for the secret ingredients in everyday products that have been linked to rising rates of infertility, endocrine system disruptions, neurological disorders, and cancer.

While the U.S. Congress stalls in the face of these dangers, the European Union has chosen to act. Strict consumer-safety regulations have forced multinationals to manufacture safer products for European consumers, while lower U.S. standards allow them to continue selling unsafe products to Americans. Schapiro's exposé shows that short of strong government action, the United States will lose not only its ability to protect citizens from environmental hazards but also, as economic priorities shift, whatever claim it has to commercial supremacy. Increasingly, products on American shelves are equated with serious health hazards, hazards that the European Union is legislating out of existence in its powerful trading bloc, a lead that even China is beginning to follow. Schapiro illustrates how the blowback from weak regulation at home carries a steep economic, as well as environmental, price.

In Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power, investigative journalist Mark Schapiro takes the reader to the front lines of global corporate and political power, where tectonic battles are being waged that will determine the physical and economic health of our children and ourselves.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Exposed

Mark Schapiro

Paperback $24.95

The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook

The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook

By Richard Wiswall

Contrary to popular belief, a good living can be made on an organic farm. What’s required is farming smarter, not harder.

In The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall shares advice on how to make your vegetable production more efficient, better manage your employees and finances, and turn a profit. From his twenty-seven years of experience at Cate Farm in Vermont, Wiswall knows firsthand the joys of starting and operating an organic farm—as well as the challenges of making a living from one. Farming offers fundamental satisfaction from producing food, working outdoors, being one’s own boss, and working intimately with nature. But, unfortunately, many farmers avoid learning about the business end of farming; because of this, they often work harder than they need to, or quit farming altogether because of frustrating—and often avoidable—losses.

In this comprehensive business kit, Wiswall covers:

  • Step-by-step procedures to make your crop production more efficient
  • Advice on managing employees, farm operations, and office systems
  • Novel marketing strategies
  • What to do with your profits: business spending, investing, and planning for retirement

A companion CD offers valuable business tools, including easy-to-use spreadsheets for projecting cash flow, a payroll calculator, comprehensive crop budgets for forty different crops, and tax planners.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook

Richard Wiswall

Paperback $34.95