Systems Thinking

Part 1


Interdependence: The relationship, dependence, and connectedness of different systems on each other

Example: Ukweli relies on Hassan to accomplish his mission of distributing test strips and collecting data to ultimately reduce maternal mortality in Sierra Leone, and Hassan relies on Ukweli to get paid.


Holism: Individual parts are dependent on each other and produce more value together than they would on their own

Example: The malnutrition team members all had different roles that were necessary by themselves, but also produced more value when combined together


Multifinality: Achieving different outcomes from the same original process, “win-win for everyone”

Example: Everybody involved with GSIF programs has individual things that benefit them from the same process. For example, the fellows get experience and publishable work, Hassan gets money, and Sierra Leonean mothers have reduced mortality rates

Equifinality: There are many approaches that can be taken to reach the same goal

Example: There are many different aspects (travel to clinics, light in birthing rooms, ANC days)  of maternal healthcare that can be focused on by the Safe Motherhood Documentary in order to reduce material death/improve maternal healthcare.


Differentiation: Within a given system, specific and unique parts are performing specific functions distinct from one another.

Examples: In the Ukweli operation, Wancheng is responsible for shipping the test trips to Freetown, Allieu is responsible for getting them to Makeni and Hassan is in charge of getting the strips to the clinics and CHWs. Each needs the other in the larger operation to function, but each is also its own subsystem.


Regulation: Making sure that intentions and actions match up with each other.
Example: The Sickle Cell group will be running many confirmatory tests, including a clinical trial (with a verification test, the gold standard), in order to insure the test strip is able to diagnose Sickle Cell Disease with a certain level of accuracy.


Abstraction: viewing a system from a birds eye view approach, thinking through complex scenarios with a level of higher context and in broader terms
Example: Once we perfect the muffin and pudding in Sierra Leone, we can use the same process and extrapolate to other developing countries to solve the same problem using their own local reseources


Leverage Points: A small area within a given system where a small change can be made in order to produce big change.
Example: The Sierra Leonean government can charge mothers a fee for giving birth at homes, and the mothers are more likely to go to the clinic to give birth. This small fee (about $5) saves many mother’s and baby’s lives.


Part 2

Emergence is the idea that an entire entity brings more value than each of its components could on its own. The muffin and pudding are emergent products, because as entities they bring value (i.e. they have all of the nutrients that children in Sierra Leone are missing, and make the children healthier), but without one of the supplements, the products don’t accomplish giving children all of the vitamins they are missing.


Part 3


Solution: Partner with the fishermen to sell the briquettes with the fish, they can make money and will help the entrepreneur collect the hyacinth. Only fisherman than want to be involved will be hired/become a partner. The other fisherman who aren’t involved originally will feel like they are missing out once they see the success of the original fisherman and will then want to join the venture.


One thought on “Systems Thinking

  1. Good example for abstraction – while the details of the solution may change in different places, the essence would remain the same. For emergence, I would even go beyond the muffins to the entire production and distribution system for the muffins. The muffins themselves don’t exhibit the characteristics of improving nutrition, but when they are combined with distribution in the system an emergent solution is achieved. Elaborate on how your solution to the hyacinth problem exhibits holism, multifinality, and regulation.

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