Introduction to Systems Thinking

‘Systems thinking’ is a term used to describe a perspective and a set of methods and tools that make it possible to look at the full extent of a system, rather than at fragments or parts. Taking a systems approach, it becomes clear that messy, longstanding problems are created by the systems in which they exist. To innovate on these social and environmental problems, it’s necessary to find ways to see, understand and use the system itself.

At its best, systems thinking encourages efforts to address the root causes of big problems.  For example, while food banks very effectively manage hunger issues, there are those who use systems thinking to figure out why hunger is still such a challenge, how it’s connected to other issues, policies, etc. and to search out and support opportunities to decrease or eradicate hunger problems.

Systems thinkers see the whole picture, understand the relationships in the system and can identify opportunities for very strategic interventions that might really make a difference.