Our growing awareness of the complexity in the economy and its relevance for economic development can have paralysing effects on our work. We more and more understand that we are facing complex problem and that our traditional tools and approaches are not ready to handle that. Indeed, recent advances in monitoring and evaluation show that traditional approaches have not been effective in terms of achieving substantial large scale change. Still, the basic paradigm behind the predominant approaches has not changed.
With Systemic Insight, Mesopartner is introducing an approach that we use in our work in economic development. It guides organizations and practitioners through a whole cycle of a change initiative and can be applied in all different fields of economic development like local and regional economic development, (global) value chain development, making markets work for the poor, cluster development, etc. The approach is based on the principles and ideas around intervening in complex systems. It also takes into account, that not all problems we are facing are complex and we need to be able to differentiate between different types of problems as we need to use different strategies to tackle them.
The Systemic Insight approach provides guidance for practitioners that are entering into a complex environment to implement a change initiative. To explain the Systemic Insight Approach, we use the metaphor of a spiral. The spiral is helpful to illustrate the progression of project planning, implementation, and monitoring. An initiative emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point. Translated into the dynamics in a project, this means that understanding of the situation increases. A spiral also signals iteration, with planning (or response) going more and more into details as the dynamics of the system are revealed and better understood.
Basically, the Systemic Insight Approach proposes five phases: hypothesis, analysis, sensemaking, strategy, and intervention. Additionally, learning and adjusting are integrating elements throughout all phases. We chose the word “phase” to highlight that these different points in the spiral signify a change of focus, perhaps a change of intensity or perhaps a different mode of working, in contrast to a sequence of distinct steps.
In our work, we are applying complexity to economic development, development of regions, inclusiveness, competitiveness, and innovation systems. For this purpose, we developed the Systemic Insight approach. The approach is based on the principles and ideas around intervening in complex systems. It embraces the new paradigm of complex adaptive systems.
Download this document on the Systemic Insight Approach to learn more about the different phases of the approach.
We see Systemic Insight as a very organic and evolving approach, not something that is finished and can be published. We are applying it in our daily work. Still, we keep improving and adjusting the approach as we go along. We hope to capture these developments and more in the Systemic Insight Blog. We always appreciate your feedback, comments, and experiences to keep improving.