Dancing with Complexity: Reflections on a Week of Learning

Posted on January 15, 2020
By Liz Weaver

human crowdThere was a time, just before I was to leave for a week of learning at Roffey Park in the UK, where I could make the case not to go.  I was too busy.  The holidays were coming up.  I was just back from travelling and now was packing my bag again.  The tree was not decorated.  The dog needed attention and on and on the excuses went. 

But I chose to pack my bags and leap into the unknown.  Human Systems Dynamics.  What a strange name for the course and while I had signed up for this program in August, I frankly had not really thought much about it since then.  I knew we would be talking about complexity.  And I knew that there would be international participants who would bring different perspectives.  But that was about it. 

As I flew to the UK, I resolved to go into the workshop with an open mind and heart.  Rather than jump to judgement, I was going to sit in inquiry and really listen and learn.  As I reflect now on the week of learning, this stance of inquiry is foundational to Human Systems Dynamics

In our work as community changemakers, we often come to judgement quickly and purposefully to move our work forward action and impact.  The problems seem too big: poverty, homelessness, the environment and impacting too many in our community; that compels us to act.  But acting too quickly may cause more harm than good. 

Human Systems Dynamics is an approach that calls for practitioners to look for patterns and to enter into the work of community change through inquiry, experimentation and learning.  Asking the questions:  what is happening now, so what needs to change, now what do I or could we do? 

Human Systems Dynamics encourages learners to engage in the following six practices: 

  • Stand in inquiry
  • Create coherence in part, whole, and the greater whole
  • Leverage the energy in difference
  • Search for what is true and useful
  • Connect through story and impact
  • Choose joyful practice

The approach also invited practitioners not to leave behind everything they know but to build on your current knowledge weaving the patterns and possibilities of HSD into current knowledge and practice.  Spending a week learning is a luxury.  It is something that we often ask of individuals attending Tamarack sessions.  Spending a week standing in the place of learning has been wonderful.  The excuses about not coming washed away and the learning came to the forefront. 

Over the next four months, I will be intentionally practicing this way of thinking and changemaking.  I will use this space to reflect more on what I have learned.  I am excited about what 2020 might bring and the learning that will evolve.  Watch this space. 

Learn more: 

Collaborative Leadership, Liz Weaver, Leadership, Blog

Liz Weaver

By Liz Weaver

Liz is passionate about the power and potential of communities getting to impact on complex issues. Liz is Tamarack’s Co-CEO and Director, Learning Centre. In this role she provides strategic direction to the organization and leads many of its key learning activities including collective impact capacity building services for the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Liz is one of Tamarack's highly regarded trainers and has developed and delivered curriculum on a variety of workshop topics including collaborative governance, leadership, collective impact, community innovation, influencing policy change and social media for impact and engagement.

Related Posts

Response to the June 2023 Hate Acts at the University of Waterloo Campus

Would the World Work if We All Were Leaders?

Design for Change: 6 Lenses Strategy