D14 - Adopting Systems Approaches to Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution/Transformation

Is there anything we can do the push systems thinking approach further into the thinking and practice of conflict resolution and transformation?  How can we move beyond a level-three understanding of feedback loops to a level seven or eight-level understanding of social systems? Do you have any examples of this being successfully done?

Are you aware of successful (or instructive) efforts to promote the more active involvement of a wider array of citizens in efforts to promote more constructive approaches to conflict (utilizing, however unintentionally) an ecosystem model of conflict response?

Please share your thoughts here!

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Systems of Systems thinkers

Many who work in healthcare are being formally introduced to systems thinking as a means of addressing patient (and healthcare worker) injury and harm and this is an example of the ecosystem model of conflict response at work in a different (but observable and replicable) setting.  This initiative at our hospital is designed to empower front line workers in real-time problem solving that taps immediate leaderhsip support to resolve the underlying root causes.  We utilize the "5 Whys" to get to root - which can never be about an individual doing the wrong thing - rather the root must be a component of the system that, if improved and standardized can become "standard work" or using an example from the skeleton more of a mechanical system that is unlikely or less likely to be negatively influenced by complex human dynamics.  A very important element of this initiative is the flattening of the cultural hierarchy in the clinical care setting to empower all those involved in care to voice their concerns or offer solutions.  This is a big paradigm shift in an otherwise traditionally very hierarchical field.  This new more level playing field is reinforced and supported, and examples where a nurse, or the patient transporter have noticied something that "wasn't right" and who have called it out only to end up saving the patient from harm, have been widely shared and publicly celebrated as evidence that everyone in the system is both important and valued.  In getting away from a culture of personal blame, and focusing on creating systems that are not reliant on an individual doing the "right thing" in order to produce reliable and safe results, we have been able to become a more functional team.  There are a lot of elements to this that mirror CR efforts, like asking the 5 whys to get to root.  What is different from the world at large, obviously, is the element of leadership buy-in....between a healthcare system and an authoritarian regime, for example.  That being said, teaching people the basics of systems-thinking, and helping everyone explore the impact of poorly designed systems and giving them tools to get to the root of the problem, and the resources to explore solutions has been productive in this setting and may be one way to create more systems of systems thinkers and potentially move conflicts out of the complex sphere and into the complicated where they stand a better chance of being addressed/resolved.   


Diane Farineau

MS Student, GMU SCAR

This is a great example,

This is a great example, Diane!  I think it is really interesting and very good news that it is happening in a health care environment which has the (perhaps unfair) reputation of being very tightly structured and hierarchial.  Loosening up that system and realizing the potential (and actual) contribution of all the parties to the system to patients' outcome is a huge step forward.  Do you have any idea if your hospital is unique or if this is become widespread?