COP27: The Reasons of a Failure

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The COP27, in itself, wouldn’t deserve a comment. It is over, and that’s it — been there, done that, and nobody cared. But I think it is a good occasion to reproduce this text by Stuart B. Hill that nicely explains why we make mistakes all the time when trying to manage complex systems. The COP27, indeed, has been a good example of the concept of “pulling the levers in the wrong direction” as Jay Forrester, the creator of System Dynamics, explained to us. So, here it is. h/t Thorsten Daubenfeld. 

10 Common ‘Mistakes’ to Avoid, & ‘Needs’ to Meet, When Seeking to Create

 a Better World – Prof Stuart B Hill – 2008 (updated Dec 2012)

 

Because of the holistic nature of the approach being advocated, all of the areas below overlap & are highly interactive & interrelated. This was written in response to the Commonwealth Government’s announcement of the Australia 2020 Summit in Canberra, ACT (19-20 April, 2008: http://www.australia2020.gov.au/); downloadable as a PowerPoint presentation from: www.stuartbhill.com 

 

1.    Getting the usual ‘experts’ (mostly older males) together to talk & plan 

       always leads to tinkering with existing (flawed) plans – [‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’]; & being trapped in dominant paradigms

       excludes most, including those affected by such plans & their ‘fresh’ ideas

 

Need 

       involve mostly ‘different’ people, including (if possible) those most affected

       start by focusing not on plans, but on values, beliefs, worldviews & paradigms 

       then feelings & passions

       then, emergent from these, hopes, dreams, visions, imaginings, & creative thoughts

       only then can ‘design/redesign-based plans’ be enabled to emerge (these proactively enable systems [structures & processes] to meet long-term to short-term, & broad to specific, goals, & to make systems as ‘problem-proof’ as possible)

       then critically analyse, integrate, & flesh these out, etc

       detail participatory opportunities, responsibilities, time lines, resource & support needs, means for monitoring outcomes (feedback), tracking progress, & for ongoing redesigning & fine tuning

 

2.     Emphasising enemy-oriented, problem-solving approaches (back-end, reactive/responsive, curative) 

 –   these tend to focus on symptom management & neglect the need to address the underlying maldesign & mismanagement roots of all problems [trying to make systems work that can never work!] 

–    they typically over-focus on measuring problems (a main strategy for postponing action – by those who benefit from the status quo),

–    & they usually focus on efficiency & substitution strategies, e.g., improved application of pesticide & on finding less disruptive (but still purchased) substitutes, such as biological controls & genetically modified organisms

       same story in other areas: medicine, energy, etc  

 

Need

       redesign existing systems (& design new systems) to make them as problem-proof as possible; & to support the effectiveness of natural controls

       & to enable effective change from flawed/defective systems to significantly more improved (sustainable, wellbeing enabling) ones

 

3.    Getting stuck in activities ‘pathologically’ designed to postpone (feared) change 

       particularly measuring problems (‘monitoring our extinction’)

       endless over-collection of data (often ‘justified’ by arguments for ‘evidence-based [vs. responsible] approaches’)

       hearings, committee meetings, report-writing, etc. [appointment to such committees may be designed to limit one’s influence]

       most such preoccupations have NO follow-through, & usually only lead to more of the same

 

Need

       postponing ‘pathologies’ must be recognised, exposed, contradicted & addressed; by taking responsible, timely, appropriate, collaborative action 

       access to relevant data is needed to make responsible decisions; however, adequate data are often already available from other places, in other languages etc. 

       globally, billions of dollars are wasted annually unnecessarily repeating studies in new locations or with mischievous intentions (often related to perceived threats to existing commercial & power advantages)

 

4.     Trying to solve problems within the disciplines or areas responsible for creating them; or with multidisciplinary teams of selected experts/authorities from favoured disciplines, with others excluded

 

Need

       genuine transdisciplinary, trans-competency & multi-experience teams, able to access disciplinary & specialised knowledge as needed

       include competencies relating to holistic approaches to design, sustainability, wellbeing, meaning & effective change processes

 

5.    Patriarchal (them doing things to/for us, & us doing things to/for them) & ‘driven’ do-good approaches are rarely exactly what is needed 

       these are generally not embraced by those being ‘helped’, or are not sustained after the helpers leave

       also, they invariably have diverse negative unexpected consequences

 

Need:

       inclusion of those most affected by proposed ‘improvements’; as primary collaborators in all change processes; & from beginning to end

       enables ownership, relevance, achievability, ongoing improvement & openness to unforseen/surprise benefits

 

6.    Planning ‘Olympic/mega-scale’, heroic initiatives (from hearings to projects; talk to action) with no follow-through or provision for ongoing support (this needs to be more than just funding)

       these invariably only reach the analysis, planning & preliminary stages; & then are abandoned

       most have unforseen numerous long-term & widespread harmful side-effects (personal, social, ecological, etc.)

 

Need

       diverse, mutually supportive, doable initiatives that have long-term commitment & support

       consideration of opportunities for ongoing improvement & learning our ways forward collaboratively towards improved futures

 

7.     Over-focus on knowledge & data, & neglect of wisdom & experience (most ‘wisdom’ cannot be supported by data; it involves working with the ‘unknown’ – this is most of what is – not just the limited ‘known’ –  often in ways that rely on intuition, ‘right brain’ & gut feelings, etc.)

 

Need

       to be much better at recognising, valuing & involving the wisest & most experienced in our society, & not so obsessed with ‘cleverness’ (whereas wisdom enables us to work with the ‘unknown’ & ‘know’, cleverness is limited to working with the miniscule ‘known’)

 

8.    Over-focus on ‘productivity’, profit, power & quick dramatic results

       predictably leads to burn-out, only short-term, limited benefits, & often unexpected disbenefits (additional problems that are often initially unrecognised)

 

Need:

       much more focus on rehabilitation &‘maintenance’ activities [sustainable ‘productivity’ is a by-product of this]

       caring for one another (& other species & the environment)

       spontaneous (vs. distractive & compensatory) celebration – helps validate & spread good ideas & initiatives

       venting feelings, & access to support for ‘healing’ our (often denied) psychological wounding, etc.

       prioritise time & resources for these activities

       realising that sustained productivity is emergent from the effective design & maintenance of whole healthy systems

 

9.    Homogenisation tendencies

       these tend to result in construction of currently favoured ‘norms’ (for people, structures, processes, etc.)

       failure to consider diversity & ‘alternatives’

       creation of favoured in-groups & excluded out-groups

       also, other expressions of inclusion, exclusion & blaming

       failure to benefit from the creativity that resides at the margins & in the borderlands of society

 

Need

       openness to appreciation of the value of heterogeneity & ‘functional’ diversity within all systems, with its opportunities for synergy, mutualism…

       lateral & paradoxical thinking & acting

       extension beyond the usual competencies

       relevance to core needs & possibilities (plus, ‘Testing Questions’ & ‘Integrator Indicators’ for these]

       a sense of inclusion, ownership, & a sense of place, etc.

 

10.   Neglect of the arts, or only token involvement

       over-focus on economic (not psycho-social) growth, the sciences, technologies, business, politics, the professions, the media, & the other major powerful institutions within our society 

       as a result, the arts are poorly supported, regarded as a luxury or optional extra, an afterthought, or even irrelevant

 

Need

       recognition of the arts, in its broadest sense (including humour), as being an essential part of both the foundation & means for implementation of all efforts to achieve genuine & sustainable improvement

 

 

Emeritus Professor Stuart B. Hill | Foundation Chair of Social Ecology – Mobile: +61 (0)400 081 440

School of Education, Western Sydney University (Kingswood Campus); Locked Bag 1797, PENRITH, NSW 2751, AUSTRALIA; Location: Building KI, Room K-2-19A, Kingswood Campus; P: +61 (0)2 4736-0799 | Ext: 2799 (Kingswood staff only) | Fax: -0400; Email: s.hill@westernsydney.edu.au | Web: http://stuartbhill.com/

Founding Co-Editor, Journal of Organic Systems: www.organic-systems.org; Latest PPTs: http://stuartbhill.com/ & http://www.scribd.com/doc/55937783

Latest YouTubes: https://youtu.be/z0SITdQA47g; www.wakeupsydney.com.au/Interviews/The-SandboxSyndrome.aspx; http://youtu.be/mzY1eZLwOdk; https://vimeo.com/123569201 & https://youtu.be/RdAWokEU64M

westernsydney.edu.au

 

My latest books are Ecological Pioneers: A Social History of Australian Ecological Thought and Action (with Dr Martin Mulligan; Cambridge UP, 2001), Learning for Sustainable Living: Psychology of Ecological Transformation (with Dr Werner Sattmann-Frese; Lulu, 2008) and Social Ecology: Applying Ecological Understanding to our Lives and our Planet (with Dr David Wright and Dr Catherine Camden-Pratt; Hawthorn, 2011).



Originally appeared on The Seneca Effect Read More

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