Complex Social Problems

“Conflict is not the only way humans interact, after all, and the conflicts that define human interactions would seem to have little in common with things like weather patterns, landslides, or bacterial growth. But as we shall see, science in recent years has exposed a set of basic operating rules that connect processes of all kinds in physical and social reality. This synthetic view is more than an abstraction; to the contrary, breakthroughs in mathematics, empirical methodology, and computer simulations have enabled scientists to identify the ways in which common processes and properties are manifest in very different phenomena. Our aim is to describe this new perspective and shine its concepts, methods, and tools on the recurrent and all-important issue of conflict in interpersonal, intergroup, and international relations.”

From Attracted to Conflict: The Dynamic Foundations of Malignant Social Relations (2013). For more information click here.

Emerging Challenges

Honduras (UN Photo by Steen Johansen)

“The rate of negotiated peace relapsing into violence shows that the international community is better at stopping violence than building or consolidating peace… the problem is that peacebuilders need the tools to create synergy among their programs in order to make their collective impact much greater than the sum of their individual projects.”

– Dr. Rob Ricigliano, Director of the Institute of World Affairs

From Making Peace Last (2012). For more information click here.

Identifying Attractors of Intractability

Double_scroll_attractor_from_Matlab_simulation“There is much more than meets the eye. We are learning that human psychological and group processes -how people feel, think, and behave together in the midst of intractable conflicts- resemble the way complex systems throughout the universe behave. Based on decades of scientific research on complex systems, it has become possible to model the way these conflicts develop strong patterns, stabilize, and resist change. Most important to understanding these patterns is a phenomenon called attractors, organized patterns in theĀ behaviorĀ of systems that emerge, endure, and of course attract.”

From The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Intractable Conflicts (pp. 8). For more information, click here.

Systemic Solutions

A woman casts her ballot at a rural polling station in Catembe on the second day of the elections. 28 October 1994 Catembe, Mozambique UN Photo # 103104

A woman casts her ballot at a rural polling station in Catembe on the second day of the elections.
28 October 1994
Catembe, Mozambique
UN Photo # 103104

“With its focus on interrelationships; emergence and spontaneous self-organization, complexity theory offers us an explanation of why these patterns emerge, and how we might make effective interventions in such a complex unpredictable terrain.”

– Dr. Danny Burns, Team Leader of the Participation, Power and Social Change team at the Institute of Development Studies

From Systemic Action Research: A Strategy for Whole System Change (2007). For more information, click here.