The paper takes a systems theory approach to identifying leverage points for creating change. In her language, the ten places, in increasing order of scale are as follows:
8. Material stocks and flows.
7. Regulating negative feedback loops.
6. Driving positive feedback loops.
5. Information flows.
4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishment, constraints).
3. The power of self-organization.
2. The goals of the system.
1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the goals, rules, feedback structure arise.
0. The power to transcend paradigms.
These may seem somewhat cryptic, by Meadows explains them in very clear language and with numerous examples. Dave Pollard has done a top notch job on summarizing the paper in “layman’s terms” and provides some of his own examples.
For me, as someone who works in complex systems like communities, I’m especially interested in the last four, from the power of self-organization to the power to transcend paradigms. Check out her thoughts on changing the paradigm or the mindset:
Systems folks would say one way to change a paradigm is to model a system, which takes you outside the system and forces you to see it whole. We say that because our own paradigms have been changed that way.
As powerful as that thought is, Meadows saves the best for last. Her thoughts on transcending paradigms:
People who cling to paradigms (just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything we think is guaranteed to be nonsense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, not even a reason for being, much less acting, in the experience that there is no certainty in any worldview. But everyone who has managed to entertain that idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it a basis for radical empowerment. If no paradigm is right, you can choose one that will help achieve your purpose. If you have no idea where to get a purpose, you can listen to the universe (or put in the name of your favorite deity here) and do his, her, its will, which is a lot better informed than your will.
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.
I think Open Space Technology may just be the fastest way to work these leverage points in a system, but I have to do more thinking about that. So I am adding this paper to the Deeper Open Space Wiki for further discussion and consideration. Feel free to join me there.