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Thursday, August 6 • 14:30 - 15:00
Practical Value of the Systems-Based Evolutionary Learning Laboratory in Solving Complex Community Problems in Vietnam

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This paper provides initial reflections on the practical value of the systems-based Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (ELLab) through a case study on improving the quality of life for women smallholder farmers in rural Haiphong, northern Vietnam. The ELLab framework comprises seven steps (issue identification, capacity building, systems modeling, identifying leverages for systemic interventions, management plans, implementation, and reflection).

The first five steps were implemented during 2013-2014 providing valuable results that have made both practical and theoretical contributions with substantial implications to community development.

By using systems approaches through the ELLab process, the project has identified the real challenges and needs of the target group. The “perceived” prominent issue (labour hardship) as assumed by the funding body was not identified as the most difficult hurdle for the women to overcome and was ranked second after poor income. The third factor determining their quality of life was health. The factors affecting these three determinants were found to be intrinsically interlinked with each other. The outcomes of this study served as feedback and a rationale for reframing the project goal and objectives to address the ‘real issues’, ‘real needs’ and thus appropriate systemic intervention strategies to address the identified challenges of the local women farmers. The findings have not only brought about practical solutions for the women (social impacts on gender equality and rural lives), but also formulated context-based recommendations for funding agencies and local governments.

This study has proven the ELLab to be a powerful framework in managing such complex problems in rural communities due to its multiple practical applications and values. The systems approach employed does not merely seek solutions to the perceived (visible) problems of the target group, but it provides an opportunity to explore the “bigger picture” of the context. Places of interventions can be defined to improve performance of the whole system (i.e. rural households and communities) rather than the traditional palliative approach.

As a generic framework, the ELLab enables a large degree of flexibility to employ other management tools to support analyses of emerging stakeholders during the implementation phase. This helps to engage the right stakeholders for understanding the context in more depth, serving as a basis for defining systemic interventions. The built-in user-friendly systems tools in the ELLab enable all stakeholders to understand different issues in relationships and to define systemic interventions, while impacts and possible unintended consequences could be envisaged through scenario testing. These are clearly more time and cost efficient than traditional problem solving approaches.

Moreover, the framework embraces a “bottom-up approach” and “true participation” since opinions of disadvantaged groups, local people and all other stakeholders are embedded in the systems models that reflect their actual issues, concerns and expectations. Drivers and barriers to their defined goals are fully explored in relationships. The framework ensures the “inclusiveness” of all stakeholders, a holistic view on hierarchical systems relationships and the different dimensions of sustainable development (i.e. economic, environmental, social and cultural). The “capacity building” component throughout the process warrants the ownership of the process and outcomes and thereby long-lasting impacts.

The ELLab creates a “co-learning environment” for all stakeholders. This was evident in this case study through triggering “transformative learning” amongst participants and thus appropriate actions of all the stakeholder groups (policy makers, government staff, agribusinesses and local farmers) towards strong collaboration and joint actions. Regular reflections and sharing of lessons and experience at both local and global levels through the online knowledge hub Think2ImpactTM (http://think2impact.org/) would continuously improve learning and performance around the world.

Contributions to organizational learning theory, and project knowledge and stakeholder management are also discussed as other evident values of the ELLab.

Keywords: Co-learning; Inclusiveness; Stakeholder; Systems thinking; Transformative learning; True participation. 


Presenter / Artist
avatar for Nam Nguyen

Nam Nguyen

Director (Australia and Southeast Asia, Malik) and Honorary Fellow (Systems Design and Complexity Management, UoA), Malik Management Institute, Switzerland and The University of Adelaide (UoA), Australia
Dr Nam Nguyen is a Director (Australia and Southeast Asia) of Malik Management Institute, Switzerland (one of the world’s leading organizations for holistic, system-cybernetic management, governance, and responsible leadership). He is also a Director of SysPrac Pty Ltd and a co-founder ofThink2Impact Pty Ltd and in Australia. Dr Nguyen was a co-founder of the internationally linked Systems Design and Complexity Management (SDCM) Alliance at The... Read More →
avatar for Ockie Bosch

Ockie Bosch

President Elect, International Society for the Systems Sciences
Professor Ockie Bosch was born in Pretoria, South Africa. He first came to Australia in 1979 where he was an invited senior visiting scientist with the CSIRO in Alice Springs. After one year in Longreach (1989) he emigrated to New Zealand where he was offered a position with Landcare Research. In 2000 he was offered a position as Professor in Natural Systems Management at the University of Queensland in Australia. In 2012 he moved to the... Read More →
TM

Tuan Minh Ha

PhD Student, The University of Adelaide Business School
ISSS Student


Thursday August 6, 2015 14:30 - 15:00
Stockholm 1 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany