Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, by Donella Meadows


PLACES TO INTERVENE IN A SYSTEM (in increasing order of effectiveness)

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards): even though they rarely change behavior

11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows: they are usually physical entities, not easy to change

10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures): they only way to fix a system is to rebuild it, but physical rebuilding is the slowest and most expensive kind of change

9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change: a system just can’t respond to short-term changes when it has long-term delays,a  delay in feedback is critical relative to rates of change in the stocks that the feedback loop is trying to control. it;s easier to slow down the change rate

8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against: one of the biggest mistakes is that we drastically narrow the range of conditions over which the system can survive, the strength of a negative loop is important relative to the impact it is designed to correct (self-correcting) 

7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops: a system with an unchecked positive loop ultimately will destroy itself (self-reinforcing). reducing the gain around a positive loop -slowing the growth- is usually a more powerful leverage point

6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information): missing feedback is one of the most common causes of system malfunction. adding or restoring information can be a powerful intervention, usually much easier and cheaper than rebuilding physical infrastructure

5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints): as we try to imagine restructured rules like that and what our behavior would be under them, we come to understand the power of rules. power over the rules is real power

4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structureSelf-organization means changing any aspect of a system lower on this list — adding completely new physical structures, such as brains or wings or computers — adding new negative or positive loops, or new rules. the ability to self-organize is the strongest form of system resilience. 

3. The goals of the system the goal of a system is a leverage point superior to the self-organizing ability of a system. even people within systems don’t often recognize what whole-system goal they are serving

2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arisesthe shared idea in the minds of society, the great big unstated assumptions — unstated because unnecessary to state; everyone already knows them — constitute that society’s paradigm, or deepest set of beliefs about how the world works (Kuhn: keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you keep coming yourself, and loudly and with assurance from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.)

1. The power to transcend paradigms: that is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to stay flexible, to realize that NO paradigm is “true,” that every one, including the one that sweetly shapes your own worldview, is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe that is far beyond human comprehension

Full article available here/ Image available here

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