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Is the system complicated or complex?

There are so many tools and approaches that it can sometimes be difficult to see the bigger picture that guides the selection of different approaches, and how they interlink in practice. In particular there is a need to appreciate the concepts of complicated and complex in order to fully understand the context and landscape which leads to the choice of appropriate interventions that will address the issues of sustainability. An introduction to this topic is available as a posting Complicated or complex - knowing the difference is important for program development, implementation and evaluation.

These reviewers and others on this page remind us that social systems are complex, and aim to help us think about how to carry out useful interventions within complex systems. In this context we can better appreciate that while adaptive, self-organising social networks produce observable patterns in response to interventions that are neither predictable nor generalisable, it remains crucial that we learn to better understand our interventions to inform future possibilities. Further reading on this topic can also be gained by the related page on systems thinking.

Working with complex systems

Managing transitions

More specific tools, guides and processes that can be used within the wider context outlined here can be found from other pages in this section. A good place to start is to look at the range of guides and manuals that have been developed in a range of sectors.