This image illustrates a roundtable discussion among diverse stakeholders in an abstract, conceptual space. Abstract figures representing different roles and perspectives are engaged in dialogue, with floating symbols of ideas, conflicts, connections, and solutions surrounding them. The scene captures the essence of collaboration and diversity in addressing complex social challenges, emphasizing the collective effort necessary in systems thinking. The vibrant color scheme of light gray, dark gray, bright red, yellow, and blue enriches the discussion, highlighting the vibrant and varied nature of collaborative problem-solving in interconnected social systems.

I’m currently studying towards my first module of a planned MSc in Systems Thinking through the Open University. I’ve written a fair number of posts on my personal blog.

It can be difficult to explain to other people what systems thinking is actually about in a succinct way, so I appreciated this post (via Andrew Curry which not only provides a handy definition, but also a mnemonic for going about doing it.

An important thing which is missing from this is the introspection required to first reflect upon one’s tradition of understanding and to deconstruct it. But helping people to understand that systems thinking isn’t a ‘technique’ is also a difficult thing to do.

A system is the interaction of relationships, interactions, and resources in a defined context. Systems are not merely the sum of their parts; they are the product of the interactions among these parts. Importantly, social systems are not isolated entities; they are interconnected and subjectively constructed, defined by the boundaries we establish to understand and influence them.

Systems thinking, then, is an approach to solving problems in complex systems that looks at the interconnectedness of things to achieve a particular goal.


Systems thinking is helpful when addressing complex, dynamic, and generative social challenges. This approach is necessary when there is no definitive statement of the problem because the problem manifests differently depending on where one is situated in that system, which implies there is no objectively right answer, and the process of solving the issue involves diverse stakeholders with different roles. Systems thinking enables us to dig deeper into the root causes of these problems, making it more effective for social change initiatives.

Given the importance of defining and drawing the boundaries of the systems of our intervention, the acrostic “FENCED” captures the six systems transformational principles of how to apply systems thinking in driving social change.

F - frame the challenge as a shared endeavour

E - establish a diverse convening group

N - nudge inner and outer work

C - centre an appreciation of complexity

E - embrace conflict and connection, chaos and order

D - develop innovative solutions that can be tested and scaled.

Source: Reos Partners

Image: DALL-E 3