Learning and teaching with system archetypes

Grand séjour d’étude organisé par Dennis Meadows (Laboratory for Interactive Learning – Durham, États-Unis) et Gillian Martin-Mehers (Bright Green Learning – Crans, Suisse) du 19 au 24 février 2024.

Participants

Cristina APETREI (Leuphana University Lüneburg – Lüneburg, Allemagne), Linda BOOTH SWEENEY (Toggle Lab  – Concord, États-Unis), Jessica Lynch BOUCHER (Zulu Ecosystems – London, Royaume-Uni – VISIO), David COLLSTE (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University – Stockholm, Suède), Bert DE VRIES (Universiteit  Van Utrecht – Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development  – Utrecht, Pays-Bas), Jenson Chong Leng GOH (Singapore Institute of Technology – Singapore , Singapour), Olivier HAMANT (INRAE ENS CNRS – Lyon, France), Cuauhtemoc LEON (Centro de Especialistas en Gestión Ambiental (CEGAM – Mexico City, Mexique – VISIO), Christoph E. MANDL (Independent researcher, Wien, Autriche), Gillian MARTIN-MEHERS (Bright Green Learning – Crans, Suisse), Dennis MEADOWS (Laboratory for Interactive Learning – Durham, États-Unis – VISIO), Riichiro ODA (Change Agent Inc. – Tokyo , Japon), ANUPAM SARAPH (Independent Advisor – Austin, États-Unis – VISIO)

 

Résumé

Le groupe de recherche du projet Archétypes de systèmes, composé de membres du groupe Balaton et dirigé par le professeur Dennis Meadows, s’est réuni du 19 au 24 février 2024 à la Fondation de Treilles à Tourtour, en France. Le Groupe Balaton est un réseau de dynamistes et de penseurs systémiques fondé par Dennis et Donella Meadows en 1982, qui se réunit chaque année sur les rives du lac Balaton pour discuter de thèmes liés à la gestion des ressources et à la durabilité. Neuf membres du groupe de travail de 13 personnes se sont réunis en personne sur les lieux de la Fondation. Le groupe multiculturel représente 12 pays et est composé de 10 chercheurs et écrivains seniors et 3 en début de carrière. L’expérience de l’équipe comprend les domaines de l’ingénierie ; dynamique des systèmes et sciences des systèmes; modélisation informatique; didactique, renforcement des capacités et éducation à la pensée systémique ; recherche opérationnelle; économie et économie écologique; sciences de l’environnement et de la durabilité; biologie moléculaire, végétale et systémique; et l’océanographie.

Le groupe s’est réuni pour élaborer un livre et du matériel de formation basés sur des archétypes de systèmes qui fournissent une ressource d’apprentissage unique aux praticiens des domaines des sciences environnementales et sociales. Le livre s’appuie sur l’expertise du groupe alors que les professeurs, les enseignants et les formateurs créent un produit convivial, basé sur des histoires d’archétypes de systèmes tirées de la vie réelle à différents niveaux : individuel, organisationnel et sociétal. L’objectif du projet est d’aider les praticiens du développement durable à découvrir le pouvoir des archétypes systémiques, à mieux comprendre cet outil de pensée systémique utile et à les aider à apporter des changements positifs dans les systèmes au sein de leurs sphères d’influence. La semaine passée à la Fondation a été une opportunité précieuse de conception et de rédaction collaborative qui a produit un plan de travail consolidé, la structure de plusieurs chapitres, et des ressources à mobiliser pour la version finale. L’équipe continuera à rédiger et à réviser les travaux, avec pour objectif d’achever la publication au début de 2025.

Abstract

The systems archetypes project research group, drawn from among members of the Balaton Group, and led by Professor Dennis Meadows, met from 19-24 February 2024 at the Fondation de Treilles in Tourtour, France. The Balaton Group is a network of systems dynamists and systems thinkers founded by Dennis and Donella Meadows in 1982, which convenes annually on the shores of Lake Balaton to discuss themes related to resource management and sustainability. Meeting at the Foundation location in person were 9 members of the 13 person working group.  The multi-cultural group represents 12 countries, and is composed of 10 senior and 3 early-career researchers and writers. The team’s background includes the fields of engineering; systems dynamics and systems sciences; computational modeling; didactics, capacity building and systems thinking education; operations research; economics and ecological economics; environmental and sustainability sciences; molecular, plant, and systems biology; and oceanography.

The group convened to elaborate a book and training materials based on systems archetypes that provide a unique learning resource to practitioners in fields of environmental and social sciences. The book draws upon the expertise of the group as professors, teachers and trainers create a user-friendly product, based on systems archetypes stories drawn from real life at different levels – individual, organization and societal. The objective of the project is to help sustainability practitioners learn about the power of systems archetypes, to help them better understand this useful systems thinking tool, and support them to make positive change in systems within their spheres of influence. The week at the Foundation was a valuable opportunity for design and collaborative writing that produced an excellent working outline and draft of the documentation. The team will continue to write and review the work, with the goal of publication completion in early 2025.

Report

Global society is entering the period we forecasted 50 years ago in our book, The Limits to Growth. Recent droughts, floods, pandemics, and food shortages are just the early examples of the issues that must be managed in the future to achieve a more sustainable path for humanity. The technology for dealing with these issues does exist. The problems arise because decision makers at all levels hold overly simplistic and short-term views of what must be done. This conflict prevents consensus and leads to policy paralysis. To counter this it will be important to spread widely the competence of systems thinking – the ability to look beyond the local short-term consequences of decisions to their wider and longer-term effects.

It has become accepted by those who provide training in systems thinking that the concept of archetypes offers the key to the widespread and effective teaching about systems. This idea was elaborated by MIT Professor Jay Forrester in a 2000 essay,

“Whether we think of pre-college or management education, the emphasis will focus on generic structures. A rather small number of relatively simple structures appear repeatedly in different businesses, professions, and real-life settings. … Future training in enterprise design will include a library of generic management situations, each of which has wide applicability in business. I estimate that about 20 such general and transferable cases would cover perhaps 90 percent of the situations that managers ordinarily encounter. Several examples already exist. Each such model manifests many modes of behavior ranging from troublesome to successful depending on the policies employed within it.”

Included in the list of archetypes would be: Fixes that fail, eroding goals, success to the successful, escalation, limits to growth, tragedy of the commons, shifting the burden/ addiction, accidental adversaries, and growth and underinvestment. Each of these describes a simple, persistent, wide-spread pattern of behavior. For example, addiction is seen in the use of credit cards, the application of pesticides, the issuance of public debt, the perpetuation of domestic violence, consumption of alcohol, smoking of cigarettes, use of psychotropic drugs, and many other apparently dissimilar situations. As another example, eroding goals is seen in attitudes as diverse as desired body weight, objectives for national unemployment, acceptable levels of national debt, and quality of the environment. Understanding the few fundamental causal mechanisms that lead to an archetypal behavior generally, can prepare someone for dealing with its many different manifestations in specific situations.

Dennis Meadows, the project convener, was the chair of a ten-professor academic department for twenty years teaching a graduate program in systems thinking and graduating MSc and PhD specialists. He concluded that a few days spent teaching students or managers the fundamentals and use of systems archetype gives them more power for constructive change than they can get from a year invested in learning formal system computer programming methods.

This Project aims to produce a good reference book and training program on archetypes that will provide a leverage for ecological transformation and political ecology. However, there is no standard reference on system archetypes. Each author uses different names, describes differing numbers of archetypes, uses different vocabulary to designate their components, and shows different causal structures for each of them. There are no widely-used, high-quality training materials related to archetypes. Thus it is difficult to spread learning about archetypes to the decision makers who most need it.  

Our Project goal is to provide a standard reference and to create and disseminate polished training materials for conveying them. The week spent at the Foundation helped the team make an excellent draft of these materials that will form the basis of further writing and collaborative work for the small team of leaders engaged. In our team are the authors of material about archetypes and professional trainers who design and conduct training programs for thousands of leaders (NGO, academic, corporate, government) each year. The project outputs will be completed by early 2025. The group would like to thank the President, the Director, and the Scientific Committee of the Fondation de Treilles, as well as the professional team who welcomed us to the beautiful location. The time together to focus and work in a beautiful surrounding was an important contribution to this unique project.

Lien vers la vidéo de présentation du séminaire par Gillian Martin-Mehers :

 



Citer ce billet
ldiebold (2024, 21 mars). Learning and teaching with system archetypes. Les carnets de la Fondation des Treilles. Consulté le 24 avril 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/w23a

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