Angela Espinosa: A Critical Approach to Sustainability (Theory and Applications) (21.11.12)


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Angela Espinosa: A Critical Approach to Sustainability (Theory and Applications) (21.11.12)

  1. 1. A Complexity Approach toSustainability: Theory and Applications Angela Espinosa November 20th, 2012 A Espinosa, HUBS
  2. 2. This seminar ..1.  Sustainability: the wickedest societal problem of all times.2.  How can we deal with core issues of dealing with complexity in sustainability programs (i.e. insights from Organisational Cybernetics)3.  Examples of applications of this approach to deal with organizational issues in the environmental sector.4.  Final reflections: how this approach contributes to sustainability. A Espinosa, HUBS
  3. 3. 1. Sustainability: The wickedestsocietal problem of all times. A Espinosa, HUBS
  4. 4. State of the World 2010 The Global Economy The Environment Resource Global Inequality Depletion A Espinosa, HUBS
  5. 5. State of the World 2010 Endangered Ecoregions A Espinosa, HUBS
  6. 6. The Story of Stuff – the Material Economy.EXTRACTION PRODUCTION DISTRBUTION CONSUMPTION DISPOSAL •  Global economic development: socially and ecologicallyunsustainable.•  Environmental problems: Highly complex and interconnected andneeds a systemic approach (Meadows & Randers, 1992).•  Complex Systems thinking: alternative paradigm to rethink socioeconomic development (Capra, 2003). A Espinosa, HUBS
  7. 7. Identifying Planetary Boundaries A Espinosa, HUBS
  8. 8. Main sustainability challenges  We have global, national and local environmental policies, programs and investments  They don’t always represent/ integrate the complexity and uncertainty of natural and social phenomena;  So, we haven’t managed to deal with major sustainability (i.e. global climate change) risks timely and effectively enough  There are still major misfits between theory and practice! A Espinosa, HUBS
  9. 9. Implementation Misfits  Ineffective hierarchical structures and traditional management practices   Mismatch in the relationship between governments, development agencies & communities   Lack of adaptive structures to decide & implement changes   Lack of cross-disciplinary decision-making processes to support policy integration  Multiple and often conflicting values; and political effects   Sustainability requires a more holistic view of environmental problems/social & institutional structures responsible for solutions. A Espinosa, HUBS
  10. 10. 2. Complexity and Sustainability Insights from Organisational Cybernetics A Espinosa, HUBS
  11. 11. Organisational Cybernetics - Origins   Developed by Stafford Beer during the 1970’s (originally named as Management Cybernetics).   It was a response to his dissatisfaction with traditional approaches to management.   His theories resulted in significant increases in productivity in the steel industry in UK. •  He called it “ The theory of effective organisation” (Beer, 1979)12/7/12 VSM J Walker Slide 11
  12. 12. The Viable System Model - - Inspiration Beer studied the way that the central and autonomic nervous systems “control” the operation of the organs and muscles, and used this understanding as the inspiration for his organisational model. Control is ‘self-regulation’: the ability to keep a dynamic equilibrium in the co-evolution organism vs. niche “We will seek the source of effective organisation in the cybernetics of natural processes - the brain itself ” VSM J Walker12/7/12 Slide 12
  13. 13. VSM Origins - The Environment Beer was looking with Cybernetic eyes - at the way an enterprise works in the context of its environment. •  What the organisation KNOWS and MEASURES about its environment determines the way it interacts with it •  The clearer and more complete the MODEL it makes of the environment, the better it can react to external changes Viable Environment system Requisite Variety?? A Espinosa, HUBS
  14. 14. Complexity & Variety  Ashby (1964), : defined, both in mechanical and in social dynamic systems:   Complexity: ‘the potentiality of a system to exhibit different states’   ‘Variety’: is:   the number of possible states a system is capable of exhibiting;   a repertory of potential behaviours   a measure of perceived complexity   An ‘observed system’ is described by a group of variables that an observer recognizes in a real situation and this is always determined by the observer’s complexity.
  15. 15. ! R Asby, MDM, HUBS The Law of Requisite Variety 4. Purchase new machines 3. Downsize organisation 5. Reorganise production 6. Increase sales force Organisatio 2. Increase salaries 1. Decrease prices nal Reaction 8. …. 7. …. Environmen tal Disturbance1. Competitor releases new product2. Trade union calls industry strike3. Govt introduces minimum wage Resulting4. New invention cuts costs State of the5. Competitor ceases to trade Organisation6. Skills shortage develops al7. ….. Relationship8. ... with its Environment
  16. 16. The Viable Systems Model (VSM)  Developed as a tool to improve the effectiveness of an organisation  Most applications involves businesses - used as the basis for improving performance (and profits)  Powerful and flexible: applicable from small businesses to multi-nationals and Governments.  Always looks at an organisation in the context of its environment - so ideal for organisational transformations in conditions of uncertainty, complexity and risk ( i.e. sustainability and climate change) A Espinosa, HUBS
  17. 17. The Three elements   The Operation,   the primary activities, composed of smaller viable systems.   Has ‘n’ units - all the same shape as the large system, showing they are all organised in the same way.   The principle is ‘maximised autonomy, limited only by systems coherence’.   The Meta-system, (logically “over & above”) designed to ensure all the parts of the operation cohere into a single, harmonious, integrated whole.   This is a service to the operational units   It can intervene, but only for system coherence.   The Environment . Those parts of the outside world which affect or are effected by the system. It shows the environments that are specific to the operational units   The three elements are all interacting.12/7/12 J. Walker, 2011 Slide 17
  18. 18. The Five Systems •  System 5 –  Closure, policy, identity, ultimate authority •  System 4 –  Environmental scanning, strategy, planning, innovation •  System 3/3* –  Overview of entire Operation, optimisation, synergy, intervention when necessary. •  System 2 –  Anti-oscillatory –  Resolution of conflict, synchronisation. –  Keeping the peace. •  System 1 –  The entire OperationJ. Walker, 2011
  19. 19. Key issues for organisational viability •  Self –organisation (self- regulation) •  Co-evolution with the environment •  Innovation: continuous learning and adaptation •  Adaptive Policies and Strategies • Continuous Learning – Closing feedback loops. •  Optimum information & communica-tion systems • Recursive Governance: Sustainability Indexes (Critical Processes for Sustainability) A Espinosa, HUBS
  20. 20. Implications for organisations  Re-distribution of   Need for greater democracy responsibilities: Based on and power equalization variety management   Continuous transformation,  True democracy: Devolved based on self-organization. control to operational levels   ‘Order generating rules’: to  Meta-systemic management: overcome the limitations of not ‘cognitive autocracy’ rational, linear, top-down,  Performance management: strategy-driven approaches to based on self-regulating units change.12/7/12 20
  21. 21. Dealing with complexity in practice.Examples of applications A Espinosa, HUBS
  22. 22. 1. Chile – Regulation of the social economy (1970’s)12/7/12 22
  23. 23. 2. Europe (1995-2010)  Malik on Management Consultants   Biggest consultancy in Europe   Professor F Malik (St Gallen Business School)   Hundreds of applications of Team Syntegrity   Coaching approach to improve organisational learning and performance   Cwarel Isaf Institute/ Metaphorum (developing Beer’s legacy)12/7/12 23
  24. 24. 3. Colombia (1990’s) …  REUNIRSE: University Network to monitor massive social investments to fights against poverty  National Auditing Office – reengineering the auditing process – 60 national organisations analysed  Ministry of Education – rethinking the national school system  Ministry of Environment – designing the national environmental systemEspinosa, HUBS A
  25. 25. 3. Colombia (2010’s)  RENATA: Organisational Redesign  MARVAL: Organisational Redesign A Espinosa, HUBS
  26. 26. 4. Ongoing applications UK, Ireland, (2007-2010)  Ecovillage (Ireland)   Transition Network   Self organisation (Peak Oil)   Support on learning/   Bottom up self-transformation approaches to   VSM - education sustainability   Community based projects   Energy descent plans12/7/12 26
  27. 27. Case Study: VSM Diagnosis in a Developing European Eco- community
  28. 28. The VSM: An intervention in an eco-community  Ecovillage – Cloughjordan (Ireland)   130 acres –   Intention: to develop a sustainable community which can be used as en educational model of the XXIst century way of living   About 8-families bought their lots and became members   From 2006-2010 – site development   Renewable energies (solar panels, district heating system)   Self-production of food (allotments, permaculture growing, organic farm)   Sustainable building (use of local building materials, houses thermally isolated, designed for low energy use/consumption)   Innovative business development   Educational NGO – courses on sustainable building/ living/ food production, etc
  29. 29. VSM Diagnosis Methodology(Espinosa & Walker, 2011a, 2011b)
  30. 30. 1. Rich picture of the eco-community organisation (2007)
  31. 31. 1. Developing Organisational IdentityAgreed organisational identity Charitable company, founded on cooperative principles to:   Create a conscious new approach to a way of life which will benefit the individuals involved, and provide a viable example to plant the seeds for other similar projects, globally   To build a sustainable community by transforming a greenfield site into a model of sustainable community, using the best of environmental technology and providing sustainable good and services, education and ‘dream houses’
  32. 32. ‘Emerging organisation’ Land Use Growing Green Infrastructure Planning Construction Management EWW IT Building site infrastructure Sales Legal Communication Selling sites Building Construction Management Enabling the building of Legal individual houses Planning Community building Building community houses Communications Political Lobbying Education/ dissemination/ networking Mobility Cloughjordan New Members Social Activities Business Development Creating sustainable community
  33. 33. 4. Initial VSM Diagnosis
  34. 34. Organisation 2009
  35. 35. 5. Implementation of changes
  36. 36. Monitoring and assessing: Emerging levels of complexity
  37. 37. Local and Regional Transition NetworksLocal initiatives Regional hubs  Social   Supporting new initiatives  Food   Supporting existing  Transport initiatives  Household Energy   Government links  Re-use, recycling, repair   Business links  Local economy  Other aspects of community A Espinosa, HUBS
  38. 38. National and Global T.N.National Support Networks  Infrastructure  Training and education  Transition BusinessTransition Movement Worldwide  Transition Network Ltd still remains,  co-ordinating role for the national networks,  helping them to work synergistically,  avoid errors that each other have made. A Espinosa, HUBS
  39. 39. 4. FINAL REFLECTIONSHow this approach contributes tosustainability. A Espinosa, HUBS
  40. 40. Conclusion Zero.  At all levels of recursion, the System 5 – representing ALL the people at that level - must be primarily concerned with Sustainability. Its primary task is to restore and maintain the health of eco-systems, and to focus on the well- being of ALL humanity.  A new paradigm of sustainable governance is required rapidly. A Espinosa, HUBS
  41. 41. Conclusion One  Sustainable self-governances needs to be undertaken based upon the new paradigm of sustainability.   It requires an understanding of recursive levels of embedded autonomous social systems, each able to self-regulate on critical issues for sustainability.   Rather than work with the traditional administrative, economic and political boundaries, we need to develop recursive governance to allow a more conscious and responsible co-evolution of human societies and their eco- regions. A Espinosa, HUBS
  42. 42. Conclusion Two  Systems must be designed and implemented which ensure that all organisations interact with their environments in a sustainable manner. This will involve:   The design of a new family of indicators, which includes measures of environmental health and human welfare.   Real-time measurement systems   A culture of continuous monitoring and rapid response.   The introduction of algedonic signals which by-pass the usual channels. A Espinosa, HUBS
  43. 43. Conclusion Three  Organisations must be designed which are based upon self- organising, autonomous operational units. Without local autonomy, there is no hope of co-evolution with a rapidly changing environment. The operational units will require the services of a Meta-system to ensure they achieve sustainable governance.   The new structures will have Meta-system, which will need to be properly designed. System 4 will need to assume its rightful place as an integrated part of the decision making structure.   Unless organisations at every level of socio-ecological interactions behave as viable systems – with a deeply embedded ethos of sustainability - the chances of the necessary societal transformation are minimal. A Espinosa, HUBS
  44. 44. In summary: Towards more sustainable social structures  By designing more adaptive organizations and environmental networks   More knowledgeable about climate change impacts and adaptation options, and   More effective and timely responding to them :   By understanding complementary approaches i.e. bottom up environmental management at all levels in the country, from organizations to local, rural, regional and national   Participatory governance at all levels   Progressive change in our attitudes and ultimately our consciousness A Espinosa, HUBS
  45. 45. References  Beer, S. (1979). Heart of the Enterprise. John Wiley & Sons  Beer, S. (1985). Diagnosing the System for Organisations. John Wiley & Sons.  Espinosa, A. Walker, J. (2011). A Complexity approach to sustainability: theory and applications. Imperial College Press. World Scientific Press.  Espinosa, A., Walker, J. (2011). ‘ Complexity Management in Practice: A VSM Intervention in an Irish Eco- Community’. European journal of Operational Research.  Jackson, M.C. (2003). Systems Thinking. Creative Holism for Managers, John Wiley, Chichester.  Figures from Beer, 1985 used with permission from Malik & Management, St Gallen, Switzerland