Systems Thinking for Social Change

Systems Thinking for Social Change

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"David Stroh has produced an elegant and cogent guide to what works. Research with early learners is showing that children are natural systems thinkers. This book will help to resuscitate these intuitive capabilities and strengthen them in the fire of facing our toughest problems."—Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline

Concrete guidance on how to incorporate systems thinking in problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning—for everyone!

Donors, leaders of nonprofits, and public policy makers usually have the best of intentions to serve society and improve social conditions. But often their solutions fall far short of what they want to accomplish and what is truly needed. Moreover, the answers they propose and fund often produce the opposite of what they want over time. We end up with temporary shelters that increase homelessness, drug busts that increase drug-related crime, or food aid that increases starvation.

How do these unintended consequences come about and how can we avoid them? By applying conventional thinking to complex social problems, we often perpetuate the very problems we try so hard to solve, but it is possible to think differently, and get different results.

Systems Thinking for Social Change enables readers to contribute more effectively to society by helping them understand what systems thinking is and why it is so important in their work. It also gives concrete guidance on how to incorporate systems thinking in problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning without becoming a technical expert.

Systems thinking leader David Stroh walks readers through techniques he has used to help people improve their efforts on complex problems like:

  • ending homelessness
  • improving public health
  • strengthening education
  • designing a system for early childhood development
  • protecting child welfare
  • developing rural economies
  • facilitating the reentry of formerly incarcerated people into society
  • resolving identity-based conflicts
  • and more!


The result is a highly readable, effective guide to understanding systems and using that knowledge to get the results you want.