A Technique That Brings Systems-thinking into Practice: Panarchy
To get a new experience and learn by doing, we chose Panarchy, one of the Liberating Structures techniques. How would you like to use Panarchy in your own teams or with various groups? If you answered yes, you can reach out to us for assistance in any situation.
We chose Panarchy, one of the Liberating Structures techniques, last Thursday in order to get a new experience and learn by doing. At the end of the day, everybody was smiling. We were happy that it helped us to understand the systems-thinking more clearly and helped us reach the point we aimed before we started.
Let's have a look at the concept of Panarchy and the philosophy that underpins it before we get into the details of how to use the technique. Panarchy theory was developed by Lance Gunderson and C.S. Holling to understand how systems work and interact across scales (Resilience Alliance 2018). Allen et al (2014) define panarchy as “a conceptual model that describes the ways in which complex systems consisting of humans and nature are dynamically arranged and structured across space and time scales”. It is possible to say that it is an integrative framework that brings together ecological, economic, social change, and stability models to take into account the complex interactions between both different domains and different scale levels. It is an awareness-raising concept that shows that the discussions made while talking about complex structures and change frequently today should be handled from different dimensions.
Although it is a concept that says we need to change our perspective by looking from complex environments and different dimensions, it is actually not that difficult to apply Panarchy, one of the LS techniques (See medium.com)
When it comes to what you will need:
- One volunteer group to gain new experiences (we worked with an excellent team from Türk Traktör, I cannot go without saying that we were lucky in this regard),
- A platform where you can work as a group (Mural, Miro, etc.),
- A period of at least 120 minutes, depending on the topic you're thinking about and want to examine.
- Since Panarchy is implemented as a chain (this chain is called String(s) in the LS dictionary) with the intertwining of several different LS techniques, it will be beneficial to take a look at the other techniques you will use.
- If you prefer to work physically, you can do so by adding the Ecocycle Planning image to your collaborative work platform, which you should have printed off at least three copies of.
You can make evaluations in many different aspects with this technique, which brings systems thinking to life. For example, you can use it when evaluating at the hierarchical level (individual, team, department, business unit, organization), temporal (past, present, future), sociological level (cell, individual, family, neighborhood, region, country), or policy, social, and environmental domains.
During our event, we planned the following agenda as we discussed with our friends the individual, team, and organization at a hierarchical level.
- Opening - 5 minutes
- Brief information about Ecocycle Planning and Panarchy – 10 minutes
- Round 1:Ecocycle Planning workshop at an individual level – 25 minutes
- Round 2:Ecocycle Planning workshop at the team level – 25 minutes
- Round 3:Ecocycle Planning workshop at Organizational level – 25 minutes
- Round 4:Sharing individual feedbacks – 5 minutes
- Round 5:Sharing observations and identifying areas of improvement – 20 minutes
- Closing - 5 minutes
During Rounds 1-2 and 3, we modified the 1-2-4-All LS technique and used it as 1-4-All. Ecocycle Planning maps were updated by working individually for 5 minutes. Afterward, we held a session in 15 minutes (with small groups) in which each group shared their common findings and revised their team areas. In the last 5 minutes, we asked the teams to share their findings and salient points with the community. As we worked with 4 teams, we used the last 5 minutes to share information with the community. If your workshop has a larger number of participants, you may want to reduce the time to 1-1.5 minutes per team or do the information sharing as 1-4-All.
We employed the Gallery Walk technique after the third stage to allow all groups to express their ideas by observing patterns in the various points of view that developed, and we gave each individual 5 minutes to tour the Mural. Thus, we enabled them to share their individual feedback. In the last twenty minutes before closing, we asked teams to work on completing the following sentences:
- An important pattern that catches your attention…
- Any shift that will change many things in up or down directions…
- A powerful change unfolding on three levels…
- Anything you have the power to change…
At the end of the day, we made a small retrospective and finished our activity.
As you can see, despite its complexity, it is a very simple technique to implement. How would you like to use Panarchy in your own teams or with various groups? If you answered yes, you can reach out to us for assistance in any situation. We'd love to hear about your experiences and your story. See you in another article, stay safe :)