Thoughtscapes

Friday, February 03, 2006

Engaging Actors to Sustain a System

Pointing out that there is nobody who really acts as a global trustee, Klaus Schwab, Founder of the WEF, asked Bill Clinton what institutions can be developed for the 21st century in order to be really capable to be respond to global challenges?

As Bill Clinton pointed out, the profound need for responding to global challenges calls for an engagement of actors who influence the global systems that confront the challenges.

All institutions engage actors; those that sustain impact and therefore the system they are a part of, have a remarkable skill at engaging all actors that make up the system they attempt to influence. It is little wonder to see that the most lasting impacts have involved partnership to a common vision or even a common goal of all the actors within a system.

Examples of such remarkable successes that may add to your own repertoire of examples include the interventions of the Gates Foundation in Mozambique, the intervention of the Rotary International in Polio eradication, or even the ubiquitous presence of information technology in our lives.

Unless such profound engagement is accomplished, the diverse aspirations of different actors within the system makes results snap back or even oscillate from impact state to previous state as dominance of actors shifts. The remarkable buffering to change through such a homeostasis or , makes it difficult to sustain impact and therefore even a system.

The first principle of sustainable action draws from this wisdom, recognizing that actors within a system drive homeostasis, equilibrium or status-quo. Sustained impact requires engagement of all actors within the system.

Underlying the very sustainability of the system itself is the relationship between its constituents: the actors. If they do not engage in shared goals or have vastly diverse goals it is likely that they will crumble the basis of their relationship; the system itself. Thus, for example, if buyers and sellers in a market system refuse to share a goal of trading, the market cannot be sustained.

We are all part of hundreds of systems: our family, community, learning systems, market systems (skill markets, commodity markets..), banking systems (as borrowers or even lenders..), the ecosystem; unless we follow the first principle of sustainable action, we erode the very sustainability of the system itself.

In larger than system timescales, this appears as the transience of systems; their coming to being and falling. Systems are born, they arise and they fall and disappear. But the first principle prevails...

2 Comments:

  • Hi Anupam,
    I liked the Chatelier link. It was especially relevant since a lot of my colleagues here have been complaining about how science is done.

    Homeostasis in a social system is hard to define, achieve and maintain. As you mention sustained effort, maybe some other "general principles" could be derived. However, in the light of how even seemingly developed societies are developing, in relation to the environment, its hard to see a practicable way.

    Keep up the good posts.
    Regards,
    Chaitanya.

    By Blogger DokC, at 7:28 AM  

  • Hi Anupam,
    I liked the Chatelier link. It was especially relevant since a lot of my colleagues here have been complaining about how science is done.

    Homeostasis in a social system is hard to define, achieve and maintain. As you mention sustained effort, maybe some other "general principles" could be derived. However, in the light of how even seemingly developed societies are developing, in relation to the environment, its hard to see a practicable way.

    Keep up the good posts.
    Regards,
    Chaitanya.

    By Blogger DokC, at 7:29 AM  

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