SYSTEMS THEORY
For understanding interactions among
individuals, groups, organizations, & the wider world
Class 4
What is a SYSTEM?
• A set of interrelated & interdependent
objects
• A unit of wholeness with distinct
properties & bounda...
Examples of systems…
• A mechanical system
• Such as an air conditioning
system
• A human system
• Such as the physical bo...
Differences among
traditional systems theories:
Structural Functionalism (Parsons)
• Proposed that each part of society is...
Ecological Perspective (Germain & Gitterman)
• Proposed that human adaptation is based on
transactions between people & th...
Overarching Ideas of all
these Systems Theories
• Interrelated & interdependent objects create a whole
system
• Each part ...
“Focal System”
• The system that is the current focus of
attention is the focal system
• Subsystem is part of the focal sy...
Your family
• Using your family of origin as the focal
point, how would you describe the
system in which you live?
• Refer...
“Adaptation”
• Defined as the process by which a system
copes with external or new internal demands
• How it secures resou...
“Feedback”
• Defined as information from the environment
to the system about the system’s output or
how the system is func...
“Closed” & “Open” Systems
• Systems with rigid
boundaries are closed
to input & closed to
feedback; they
“entropy”
• Becom...
OPEN SYSTEM
with
porous boundaries
•Systems with porous
boundaries are open to
feedback
•This leads to “synergy”
•“Living ...
“Equifinality”
• The proposition that one can get to
the same end from many different
directions
• Different paths lead to...
How can these concepts
be applied to your social
work interventions?
What are the strengths of this
theory for understandi...
Now, what are the problems
with these versions of
systems theory?
Is there always a “cause & effect”
that leads to change ...
Isn’t the world sometimes more chaotic?
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Swep iii. sss 571. class 4

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Swep iii. sss 571. class 4

  1. 1. SYSTEMS THEORY For understanding interactions among individuals, groups, organizations, & the wider world Class 4
  2. 2. What is a SYSTEM? • A set of interrelated & interdependent objects • A unit of wholeness with distinct properties & boundaries differentiating it from other units 2
  3. 3. Examples of systems… • A mechanical system • Such as an air conditioning system • A human system • Such as the physical body • A social system • Such as a family, a small group, a clan, a tribe • A governmental system • Such as a city, a state, a nation • An astronomical system • Such as our solar system 3
  4. 4. Differences among traditional systems theories: Structural Functionalism (Parsons) • Proposed that each part of society is related to the whole • Examined the structure & function of social systems 4
  5. 5. Ecological Perspective (Germain & Gitterman) • Proposed that human adaptation is based on transactions between people & their environment • Emphasized adaptation of a population or group & “goodness of fit” General Systems Theory (Bertalanffy) • Proposed that human systems are characterized by development, creativity, & transformation • Dynamic Systems Theory, which explains human development, is part of general systems theory 5
  6. 6. Overarching Ideas of all these Systems Theories • Interrelated & interdependent objects create a whole system • Each part affects all the other parts within the system • Subsystems are parts of larger systems • Boundaries maintain system identity & determine the flow of information into or out of the system • Change & stability are created by interactions among, within, between systems • Systems tend to maintain & sustain themselves through self-preservation 6
  7. 7. “Focal System” • The system that is the current focus of attention is the focal system • Subsystem is part of the focal system • Suprasystem (e.g., the environment) is external to the focal system • Boundaries distinguish the focal system from the environment • Focal systems, subsystems, & suprasystems are interrelated 7
  8. 8. Your family • Using your family of origin as the focal point, how would you describe the system in which you live? • Refer to your eco-map you did last night • What happens when something changes within that system? • How does the system adapt? 8
  9. 9. “Adaptation” • Defined as the process by which a system copes with external or new internal demands • How it secures resources from the environment • Systems & their environments inevitably mutually adapt to each other • Interdependence affects adaptation • A change in one system leads to change in other systems 9
  10. 10. “Feedback” • Defined as information from the environment to the system about the system’s output or how the system is functioning • Based on reaction to feedback, systems are both self-maintaining & self-transforming • Feedback enables system to maintain a steady state, a balance between system & environment 10
  11. 11. “Closed” & “Open” Systems • Systems with rigid boundaries are closed to input & closed to feedback; they “entropy” • Become increasingly stagnant & disorganized CLOSED SYSTEM with rigid boundaries 11
  12. 12. OPEN SYSTEM with porous boundaries •Systems with porous boundaries are open to feedback •This leads to “synergy” •“Living organisms are essentially open systems” (Bertalanffy) •Transactions within or between systems lead to increased creativity 12
  13. 13. “Equifinality” • The proposition that one can get to the same end from many different directions • Different paths lead to the same end point & there’s not just one correct outcome or direction to take For example, a variety of social work interventions may produce the same desired results 13
  14. 14. How can these concepts be applied to your social work interventions? What are the strengths of this theory for understanding various systems in your country?
  15. 15. Now, what are the problems with these versions of systems theory? Is there always a “cause & effect” that leads to change in the system? Is it always possible to maintain a “steady equilibrium” in the system?
  16. 16. Isn’t the world sometimes more chaotic?

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