Improving Rural Housing in South Dakota
A Systems Approach
David Peter Stroh
Bridgeway Partners
Introductions
• What is working now in your experience of 
developing appropriate, affordable housing?
• What do you want ...
Goals
• Understand why good intentions are not enough to 
achieve meaningful results
• Distinguish conventional from syste...
Agenda
• Set the context
• Clarify where we have come from
• Learn basic systems thinking tools
• Lunch
• Agree on where w...
Examples
• Homeless shelters perpetuate homelessness
• Food aid leads to increased starvation
• Drug busts increase drug‐r...
Common Characteristics of Failed Solutions
• Obvious and often succeed in the short run
• Short‐term gains undermined by l...
Good Deeds Are Not Enough
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
7BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS
© 2011
“When you are confr...
The Need for a New Way of Thinking 
 The connection between problems and their 
causes is obvious and easy to trace.
 Ot...
Some Definitions
• Available, affordable housing: 
– Primary purpose is to attract young families
– Alternatives include s...
Deepening Our Understanding of Reality: The Iceberg
FOCUS ACTION OR RESPONSE
Why?
TRENDS
& PATTERNS
TRENDS
& PATTERNS
STRU...
Some Key Events
• Passage of Governor’s Houses legislation
• Opening of new hospital in town
• Termination of federal fund...
www.bridgewaypartners.com
(c) 2011
12
Graphing Trends Over Time: Homelessness Example
Time
Estimated # Homeless
Efforts to...
Trends for Rural Housing in South Dakota
Draw trends over past 10 years for:
• Appropriate, affordable rural housing stock...
The world is circular not linear:
Analyzing Structure: Recognizing Feedback
From:
To:
Problems or 
Crises
Actions or 
Inte...
• We live in complex webs of interconnected reinforcing 
and balancing processes.
• Reinforcing process:
 virtuous cycles...
Reinforcing Loops
Performance
or
Condition
Growing 
Action
R
Pattern
Time
Structure
Performance
or
Performance
16BRIDGEWAY...
Rural Development 
www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 17
Housing
Population
Jobs
Need for Housing
R
Teacher’s 
Expectations
Student’s 
PerformanceR
To what extent have you experienced the same dynamic with people who
work ...
Lily Pond Story
Time (Days)
% Surface 
Area 
Covered
0
100
0 30
Known Facts:
1. 100% of surface area is covered in 30 days...
Questions
1. When is the pond half full?
a) 10 days
b) 15 days
c) 20 days
d) 29 days
2. How full is the pond after 15 days...
Lily Pond Lessons
Time (Days)
% Surface 
Area 
Covered
100
0 30
0
x
x
x
xxxx
x
… And Structure Is a
Better Predictor
Than ...
Balancing Process
Structure Pattern
Balancing loops seek to correct or adjust toward a goal
Performance
or Condition
Corre...
The Risk of Taking the Pressure Off
B
Results
(e.g., Plant Accidents)
Effort
(e.g., Plant Safety Programs)
Balancing Effor...
The Challenge of Managing Time Delays
• Delays are a significant and often hidden part of system structure.
• Delays can o...
Desired
Performance or
Goals
Actual
Performance
Gap
Corrective
Action
BDelay
 Increase graduation rates
 Create responsi...
Condition or
Performance
BR
Constraining
Action
Virtuous
Cycle
Limiting
Process
Time
Growing
Action
Performance
Delay
Limi...
• External limits (market size, competition, natural resources).
• Limits within the organization or community (financial,...
Causal Loop Diagram vs. Process Map
Sales
Revenue
Plan
Do
Check
Act
•What do the words communicate in each picture?
______...
Priming the Pump
Available, Affordable
Housing
Population
Jobs
Housing
Need
Housing 
Development 
Educ Oppty
Tax Revenue
A...
Managing Development Costs
Development Costs
Labor Costs
Sweat Equity Prison Labor
Land Costs
Large Parcel Size
Convenienc...
Understanding Where We Are
• Which dynamics make sense to you – have 
you experienced?
• In what essential ways is the mod...
The Power of Mental Models
• A critical part of system structure
• Deeply held beliefs and assumptions about
ourselves and...
Mental Models Example:Firefighting Breeds Arsonists
Performance
Problems
Improvements in
Systems
and Processes
Firefightin...
Mental Models for Rural Housing
• What underlying beliefs or assumptions 
support our ability to increase appropriate, 
af...
www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c) 
2008
35
Identifying Leverage Points
1. Ask systemic questions, e.g.
– Why have we...
www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c) 
2008
36
Identifying Leverage Points
3. Rewire current dynamics
4. Test and shift ...
www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c) 
2008
37
Leverage Points for Limits to Growth
• If initial R loops are weak, find ...
www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c) 
2008
38
Test Mental Models
• Affirm past experience which has shaped the beliefs ...
Leverage Points for Rural Housing
• What engines of growth can you strengthen 
and how?
• What time delays can you shorten...
For More Information
• Books
– Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline and The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook
– Donnella Meadows, Th...
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Rural Housing: Reframing the Way Forward

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This handout was utilized on December 14, 2011 at the Rural Housing: Reframing the Way Forward event at the Maroney Commons in Howard, SD. Materials were developed by systems mapper David Peter Stroh.

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Rural Housing: Reframing the Way Forward

  1. 1. Improving Rural Housing in South Dakota A Systems Approach David Peter Stroh Bridgeway Partners
  2. 2. Introductions • What is working now in your experience of  developing appropriate, affordable housing? • What do you want from today’s Summit? www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 2
  3. 3. Goals • Understand why good intentions are not enough to  achieve meaningful results • Distinguish conventional from systems thinking • Learn basic systems thinking tools • Apply these tools to deepening our understanding  of appropriate, affordable housing in South Dakota – Where we have come from – Where we are now – What we can do to increase it • Clarify next steps www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 3
  4. 4. Agenda • Set the context • Clarify where we have come from • Learn basic systems thinking tools • Lunch • Agree on where we are now and why we haven’t  been as successful as we want in developing  appropriate, affordable rural housing • Break • Identify high leverage solutions • Determine next steps www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 4
  5. 5. Examples • Homeless shelters perpetuate homelessness • Food aid leads to increased starvation • Drug busts increase drug‐related crime • “Get tough” prison sentences fail to reduce fear of  violent crime  • Job training programs increase unemployment 5BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  6. 6. Common Characteristics of Failed Solutions • Obvious and often succeed in the short run • Short‐term gains undermined by long‐term impacts • Negative consequences are unintentional • If the problem recurs, we do not see our responsibility 6BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  7. 7. Good Deeds Are Not Enough “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 7BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011 “When you are confronted by any complex social system …  with things about it that you’re dissatisfied with and  anxious to fix, you cannot just step in and set about fixing  with much hope of helping. This is one of the sore  discouragements of our time… If you want to fix  something you are first obliged to understand…the whole  system.” (Lewis Thomas)
  8. 8. The Need for a New Way of Thinking   The connection between problems and their  causes is obvious and easy to trace.  Others, either within or outside our  organization, are to blame for our problems and must be the ones to change.  A policy designed to achieve short term  success will also assure long term success.  In order to optimize the whole, we must  optimize the parts.  Aggressively tackle many independent  initiatives simultaneously.  The relationship between problems and their  causes is indirect and not obvious.  We unwittingly create our own problems and  have significant control or influence in solving  them through changing our own behavior.  Most quick fixes have unintended  consequences: they make no difference or  make matters worse in the long run.  In order to optimize the whole, we must  improve relationships among the parts.  Only a few key coordinated changes sustained  over time will produce large systems change. Conventional Thinking Systems Thinking 8BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  9. 9. Some Definitions • Available, affordable housing:  – Primary purpose is to attract young families – Alternatives include single/multi‐family, new/rehab,  rent/rent‐to‐buy • Availability of funding for developers and buyers:  – Lenders: government (multiple levels), private, nonprofit  corporation – Forms of assistance: loans, tax credits, set‐asides, down‐ payment assistance, investments, payment scheduling • Community infrastructure for development – Paid development coordinator – Nonprofit development corporation www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 9
  10. 10. Deepening Our Understanding of Reality: The Iceberg FOCUS ACTION OR RESPONSE Why? TRENDS & PATTERNS TRENDS & PATTERNS STRUCTURE (Forces and Pressures) EVENTSEVENTSWhat happened? React Firefight Anticipate Forecast Change Create What’s been happening? Learning Leverage Pressures Policies Power dynamics Perceptions Purpose 10BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  11. 11. Some Key Events • Passage of Governor’s Houses legislation • Opening of new hospital in town • Termination of federal funding source • Other? www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 11
  12. 12. www.bridgewaypartners.com (c) 2011 12 Graphing Trends Over Time: Homelessness Example Time Estimated # Homeless Efforts to Reduce Homelessness Visibility of the Problem Present10 Years Ago
  13. 13. Trends for Rural Housing in South Dakota Draw trends over past 10 years for: • Appropriate, affordable rural housing stock • Population of young families in rural towns • Available jobs in rural towns • Funding for rural housing development  www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 13
  14. 14. The world is circular not linear: Analyzing Structure: Recognizing Feedback From: To: Problems or  Crises Actions or  Interventions Actions or  Interventions Problems  or Crises Unintended and Delayed  Consequences 14BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  15. 15. • We live in complex webs of interconnected reinforcing  and balancing processes. • Reinforcing process:  virtuous cycles that generate growth  vicious treadmills that create disaster Reinforcing Loops 15BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  16. 16. Reinforcing Loops Performance or Condition Growing  Action R Pattern Time Structure Performance or Performance 16BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  17. 17. Rural Development  www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 17 Housing Population Jobs Need for Housing R
  18. 18. Teacher’s  Expectations Student’s  PerformanceR To what extent have you experienced the same dynamic with people who work for you, your colleagues or suppliers, your children? The Self‐Fulfilling Prophecy
  19. 19. Lily Pond Story Time (Days) % Surface  Area  Covered 0 100 0 30 Known Facts: 1. 100% of surface area is covered in 30 days 2. Surface area covered by lily pads doubles every day Full 19BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  20. 20. Questions 1. When is the pond half full? a) 10 days b) 15 days c) 20 days d) 29 days 2. How full is the pond after 15 days? a) 50% b) 25% c) 2.5% d) .0025% 20BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  21. 21. Lily Pond Lessons Time (Days) % Surface  Area  Covered 100 0 30 0 x x x xxxx x … And Structure Is a Better Predictor Than Trends 21BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  22. 22. Balancing Process Structure Pattern Balancing loops seek to correct or adjust toward a goal Performance or Condition Corrective Action B Time Goal 22 Performance BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  23. 23. The Risk of Taking the Pressure Off B Results (e.g., Plant Accidents) Effort (e.g., Plant Safety Programs) Balancing Effort and Results 23BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  24. 24. The Challenge of Managing Time Delays • Delays are a significant and often hidden part of system structure. • Delays can occur in awareness, decision‐making, implementation, and/or correction. • The tendency is to be impatient and over‐respond or to give up prematurely. Delay B Water Temperature Hot Water Flow 24BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  25. 25. Desired Performance or Goals Actual Performance Gap Corrective Action BDelay  Increase graduation rates  Create responsible citizens and lifelong learners  Get a job  Test scores  Absentee rates  Teacher evaluations What gap?  My child is above average  Our school is above average We need more/less:  3R’s in Kindergarten  Arts, physical education, social studies …. We expect to see these changes by … Failing to Agree on What We Want and Where We Are: Challenges in Disseminating K-12 Innovations 25BRIDGEWAY PARTNERS © 2011
  26. 26. Condition or Performance BR Constraining Action Virtuous Cycle Limiting Process Time Growing Action Performance Delay Limits or Constraint on Performance Limits to Growth
  27. 27. • External limits (market size, competition, natural resources). • Limits within the organization or community (financial, human, or technological resources available, skills of workforce). • Limits within ourselves (our skills, mental models, attitudes, willingness to change, capacity to learn). Other slowing forces may involve action by others that are caused or stimulated by our growth Limits that May Affect Growth Situations
  28. 28. Causal Loop Diagram vs. Process Map Sales Revenue Plan Do Check Act •What do the words communicate in each picture? __________________ _________________ •What do the arrows signify in each picture? __________________ __________________ Investment Quality of Products And Processes
  29. 29. Priming the Pump Available, Affordable Housing Population Jobs Housing Need Housing  Development  Educ Oppty Tax Revenue Availability of Funding Community Infrastructure For Development  Potential Return On Development  Development Costs* Economic Prospects Homeownership Education Risk of Competing With  Private Developers & Realtors Community  Resistance Risk of Under‐appraisal Risk of Over‐building Engaged Citizens In Vital N’hoods R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R=Pump B=Seepage R8 R10 R9 B1 B2 Willing and Able Buyers www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 29
  30. 30. Managing Development Costs Development Costs Labor Costs Sweat Equity Prison Labor Land Costs Large Parcel Size Convenience Willing and Able Buyers Material Costs Land Trusts Design Features Low Infrastructure Costs Planned Density www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 30
  31. 31. Understanding Where We Are • Which dynamics make sense to you – have  you experienced? • In what essential ways is the model inaccurate  or incomplete? • How might you modify it? www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 31
  32. 32. The Power of Mental Models • A critical part of system structure • Deeply held beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and the world • Determine how and what we perceive • Guide how we act, which in turn influences our results • Incomplete and may be outdated
  33. 33. Mental Models Example:Firefighting Breeds Arsonists Performance Problems Improvements in Systems and Processes Firefighting Time to Improve Systems and Processes Customers’ Expectations For Special Treatment Use of Customized Solutions Ability to Develop Common Systems And Processes We’ll do whatever it takes. This is what gets rewarded I don’t have time to be on a design committee The company will give us whatever we want It’s impossible to develop common solutions This will take too much time. We have to help the customer now © 2008 AppliedSystemsThinking.com B B
  34. 34. Mental Models for Rural Housing • What underlying beliefs or assumptions  support our ability to increase appropriate,  affordable rural housing? • What underlying beliefs or assumptions hinder our ability to increase appropriate, affordable  rural housing? www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 34
  35. 35. www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c)  2008 35 Identifying Leverage Points 1. Ask systemic questions, e.g. – Why have we not been able to achieve desired  results despite our best efforts? – If we know the solution, how come we haven’t  been able to implement it?  – How do we unwittingly contribute to the  problem? 2. Increase awareness of current dynamics
  36. 36. www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c)  2008 36 Identifying Leverage Points 3. Rewire current dynamics 4. Test and shift mental models  5. Revisit goals and metrics
  37. 37. www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c)  2008 37 Leverage Points for Limits to Growth • If initial R loops are weak, find ways to strengthen  them, i.e. prime the pump – Identify and reinforce weak links – Reduce delays or reset expectations for time required • Anticipate and invest ahead of the limits, i.e.  minimize seepage – Develop/strengthen new engines of growth – This might require diverting resources from current  growth engines
  38. 38. www.appliedsystemsthinking.com      (c)  2008 38 Test Mental Models • Affirm past experience which has shaped the beliefs  and feelings associated with them • Ask, “Do our beliefs help us achieve what we want?” • Seek disconfirming data, diverse views, and alternative  interpretations of the data • Experiment with new behaviors consistent with the  new belief • Monitor experiments • Revise and retest assumptions
  39. 39. Leverage Points for Rural Housing • What engines of growth can you strengthen  and how? • What time delays can you shorten or be more  realistic about? • What limits to growth can you weaken? • What new engines of growth can you develop  to overcome the limits? • What mental models can you test? How? www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 39
  40. 40. For More Information • Books – Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline and The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook – Donnella Meadows, Thinking in Systems • Articles (from Bridgeway Partners website) – “Leveraging Change: The Power of Systems Thinking in Action” – “Leveraging Grant‐making: Parts 1 and 2” • Websites – Bridgeway Partners: www.bridgewaypartners.com – Applied Systems Thinking: www.appliedsystemsthinking.com – Pegasus Communications: www.pegasuscom.com • Contact David Peter Stroh – Dstroh@bridgewaypartners.com – 617‐487‐8766 www.bridgewaypartners.com           (c) 2011 40

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