Systemic Consulting

Economic or ecological systems, a city or region, even an urban quarter or an organization present us with difficult challenges. Often, each one of us only understands a small piece of reality and fails to fathom why other people see the world so differently. We are placed in a quandary like that of the blind men and the elephant, who can not agree what kind of an animal the elephant is.

The construction of a systemic perspective helps to obtain an overview and to place the perspectives of various actors in the system into relationship. This facilitates the search for promising approaches to solving a problem. this is the purpose of systemic consulting.

It is best if people with diverse, complementary perspectives participate in a process of systemic consulting. The consultation consists of searching questions about the interrelationships that affect a problem. The answers are used to construct a graphic that helps to visualize and understand the complex interactions. Thus, participants find leverage points to influence a system in helpful ways. In the process, they come to an understanding how different, apparently mutually exclusive viewpoints can complement each other. Working in common toward a shared goal becomes possible.

This method is especially useful for involving diverse people with a variety of perspectives in the formulation of strategies in areas such as

  • urban, village or regional development,
  • environmental or nature protection,
  • responsible development of a business, or
  • the solution of social problems.

The method can also be used for purposes of education, such as in workshops in the area of education for sustainable development.

Depending on the task at hand, the events can be used in public events or in consultations with a small group of directly involved participants. A one-time meeting can be useful in order to gain a common understanding of beneficial intervention opportunities. The development of an action strategy or the evaluation of its success will require additional meetings in order to work out details.

Workshop at the Commons Summerschool, Bechstedt, Thuringia, June 2018. Photo: Vera Hofmann

Links with further explanations

A workshop that I offered on 4/14/2018 at the Volkshochschule Heidelberg provided insights into how useful it can be to work together as a group to create systems graphics to visualize complex relationships. See the following report: Systems Graphic Workshop VHS Heidelberg April 2018

My article How to make a systems graphic to understand shared enterprises uses the example of Solidago (a solidarity-based mutual health insurance organization) to show how systems graphics can be created and used in order to identify possible action strategies.

The German version of this page provides additional links that are available only in German.

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