Jun 4, 2012

Where can we get some leverage to really change mental illness?

How can we use systems theory to deliver powerful innovation and change? In 1997, Donella Meadows wrote a famous article in Whole Earth Review identifying 12 key leverage points.

Here’s the list, in order of increasing power.
12    Numbers. Constants and parameters such as subsidies, taxes, and standards
11    Buffers. The sizes of stabilizing stocks relative to their flows
10    Stock-and-Flow Structures. Physical systems and their nodes of intersection
9    Delays. The lengths of time relative to the rates of system changes
8    Balancing Feedback Loops. The strength of the feedbacks relative to the impacts they are trying to correct
7    Reinforcing Feedback Loops. The strength of the gain of driving loops
6    Information Flows. The structure of who does and does not have access to information
5    Rules. Incentives, punishments, constraints
4    Self-Organization. The power to add, change, or evolve system structure
3    Goals. The purpose or function of the system
2    Paradigms. The mindset out of which the system—its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters—arises.
1    Transcending Paradigms 
Meadows noted: “It is in the space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia.”

If we really want to change the experience of mental illness, we need powerful leverage -- adding a dollar here or there, tweaking this or that will not get us all the way.

Several versions of Meadows' article exist. Here's a link to one. 


Corinna West said...

This is why entrepreneurship is so important. It's like R. Buckminister Fuller said, "You can't change the old paradigm. You have to make a new paradigm that makes the old paradigm obselete. This is why I'm disappointed that so few recovery movement people are talking about entrepreneurship.

Paul Komarek said...

I think the whole world works. It's entrepreneurship, employment, politics, family life and school -- not a single thing about expertise or sickness. We do need to rely on experts from time to time, but there's no need to give them too much power. see my latest post here. http://redesigningmentalillness.blogspot.com/2012/11/recalled-to-life.html (you inspired me, actually). --pk---