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

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

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.

AUTHOR EVENTS

June 04, 2017

David Peter Stroh at IASA Executive Education Roundtable Series

Orlando World Center Marriott, Orlando, FL | David Peter Stroh
Keynote speaker David Peter Stroh will discuss why organizations tend to resist leaders’ well-intentioned change initiatives, and will identify ways of applying systems to meet this challenge. More details to come.

See all Events by this Author

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Energy Revolution

Energy Revolution

By Howard Johns

We need a global energy revolution. In developed nations we are wasting massive quantities of energy providing heat and light to our homes and businesses while one and a half billion people have no access to electricity at all. The existing central-power-station model is based on old technology that spews carbon, energy, and money straight up the chimney.

Energy Revolution shows us how we can change all of this. Telling stories from around the world of the change that’s already happening and drawing on two decades of his own unique experience, Howard Johns demonstrates how we can develop our own renewable-energy projects to provide local energy and create a new fleet of businesses.

He shows us how communities can build local energy solutions—renewable-power stations that will be a new form of building society where we come together to develop, finance, and construct the infrastructure that we and future generations so desperately need.

Howard Johns explains how to design, set up, and fund community energy systems, citing examples from countries that already have cut the amount of energy they use and supply their needs from renewable energy. These new systems will create new jobs and businesses, reduce energy imports, and create new local-investment models.

This handbook contains the map we need to change the system from the bottom up and make the next great leap forward to achieving clean, affordable energy. It covers everything needed to structure your community power company—the technology, site assessment, legal and business planning, fundraising and financial modeling, and putting people at the heart of your strategy. It’s time to take control, re-localize, reduce costs and carbon emissions, and join the energy revolution.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Energy Revolution

Howard Johns

Paperback $29.95

Alone and Invisible No More

Alone and Invisible No More

By Allan S. Teel

In Alone and Invisible No More, physician Allan S. Teel, MD, describes how to overhaul our eldercare system. Based on his own efforts to create humane, affordable alternatives in Maine, Teel's program harnesses both staff and volunteers to help people remain in their homes and communities. It offers assistance with everyday challenges, uses technology to keep older people connected to each other and their families, and stay safe. This approach works.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Alone and Invisible No More

Allan S. Teel

Paperback $17.95

Thinking in Systems

Thinking in Systems

By Donella Meadows

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.

Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.

While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Thinking in Systems

Donella Meadows, Diana Wright

Paperback $19.95

Carbon Shock

Carbon Shock

By Mark Schapiro

In Carbon Shock, veteran journalist Mark Schapiro takes readers on a journey into a world where the same chaotic forces reshaping our natural world are also transforming the economy, playing havoc with corporate calculations, shifting economic and political power, and upending our understanding of the real risks, costs, and possibilities of what lies ahead.

In this ever-changing world, carbon—the stand-in for all greenhouse gases—rules, and disrupts, and calls upon us to seek new ways to reduce it while factoring it into nearly every long-term financial plan we have. But how?

From the jungles of the Amazon to the farms in California’s Central Valley, from ‘greening’ cities like Pittsburgh to rising powerhouses like China, from the oil-splattered beaches of Spain to carbon-trading desks in London, Schapiro deftly explores the key axis points of change.

For almost two decades, global climate talks have focused on how to make polluters pay for the carbon they emit. It remains an unfolding financial mystery: What are the costs? Who will pay for them? Who do you pay? How do you pay? And what are the potential impacts? The answers to these questions, and more, are crucial to understanding, if not shaping, the coming decade.

Carbon Shock evokes a world in which the parameters of our understanding are shifting—on a scale even more monumental than how the digital revolution transformed financial decision-making—toward a slow but steady acknowledgement of the costs and consequences of climate change. It also offers a critical new perspective as global leaders gear up for the next round of climate talks in 2015.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

Carbon Shock

Mark Schapiro

Hardcover $26.00