Post Carbon chapter on systems literacy

Back in 2015 and ’16, Peter Tuddenham sparked a variety of conversations about systems literacy.

In “Governing in the Anthropocene,” Ray Ison and Monica Shelley set out an argument for how a systems literacy might assist one in developing one’s systemic sensibilities into practical capabilities. They wrote:

The good news, based on over 40 years of experience in offering systems education at The Open University (UK), is that despite our culture and institutions (norms, or rules of the ‘human game’) a certain percentage of us retain a systemic sensibility—something which we may have been born with, or which developed in childhood. What is missing, however, are the contexts for a systemic sensibility to flourish, to be recovered and/or fostered. Investment in building systems literacy and then system thinking in practice capability … is missing in education as well as organizational life.

When Daniel Lerch of the Post Carbon Institute invited me to write a chapter on systems for The Community Resilience Reader, I adopted the literacy framing as well.

Here’s the intro:

Life is full of unknowns, rich with complexities. Two people experiencing a situation might interpret it differently. Even familiar situations might take unpredictable turns.

Systems thinking is a way of seeing patterns amidst the messiness of life. Patterns give coherence to one’s experience. A systems toolkit of methods, models, concepts, and metaphors can be used to both interpret such patterns and inform one’s actions. For today’s challenges – for creating a post-carbon world – familiarity with this toolkit represents a basic and essential literacy.

The full book is available free here:

  • Marina Zurkow 17 Mar 2021, 10:23 am

    Yes! It’s so dearly what we need, systems literacy that can translate into interconnected action. Bravo. Now.. where’s the instruction manual? (LOL)

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