IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Complexity management in practice: A Viable System Model intervention in an Irish eco-community


  • Espinosa, Angela
  • Walker, J.


While soft OR tools offer specific solutions to manage complexity in organisations, little is known concerning soft OR tools to deal with self-organisation in communities. This paper describes an action research project where the authors facilitated a process of self-organisation in a developing Irish eco-community whose members operate in a non-hierarchical, and cooperative fashion. We used the Viable System Model as a hermeneutical enabler of the community learning process concerning their self-organisation: by embedding VSM distinctions, they redesigned their primary tasks and developed meta-systemic management tools to deal with the complexity they were facing. Observations of the dynamics of the self-organising process over a period of 3years show the community designed their roles and tasks more effectively, improved the connectivity of roles, and in general, their viability and sustainability. We reflect on the distinctiveness of the methods used, and their contributions to research in soft OR in community projects.

Suggested Citation

  • Espinosa, Angela & Walker, J., 2013. "Complexity management in practice: A Viable System Model intervention in an Irish eco-community," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 225(1), pages 118-129.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ejores:v:225:y:2013:i:1:p:118-129
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2012.09.015

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Franco, L. Alberto & Montibeller, Gilberto, 2010. "Facilitated modelling in operational research," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 205(3), pages 489-500, September.
    2. Ackermann, Fran, 2012. "Problem structuring methods ‘in the Dock’: Arguing the case for Soft OR," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 219(3), pages 652-658.
    3. Espinosa, A. & Harnden, R. & Walker, J., 2008. "A complexity approach to sustainability - Stafford Beer revisited," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 187(2), pages 636-651, June.
    4. Mingers, John, 2011. "Soft OR comes of age--but not everywhere!," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 729-741, December.
    5. White, Leroy, 2009. "Understanding problem structuring methods interventions," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 199(3), pages 823-833, December.
    6. Gerald Midgley & Martin Reynolds, 2004. "Systems|operational research and sustainable development: towards a new agenda," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 56-64.
    7. Mingers, John & White, Leroy, 2010. "A review of the recent contribution of systems thinking to operational research and management science," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 207(3), pages 1147-1161, December.
    8. Mingers, John & Rosenhead, Jonathan, 2004. "Problem structuring methods in action," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 152(3), pages 530-554, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. David Lowe & Louise Martingale & Mike Yearworth, 2016. "Guiding interventions in a multi-organisational context: combining the Viable System Model and Hierarchical Process Modelling for use as a Problem Structuring Method," Journal of the Operational Research Society, Palgrave Macmillan;The OR Society, vol. 67(12), pages 1481-1495, December.
    2. Tavella, Elena & Papadopoulos, Thanos, 2017. "Applying OR to problem situations within community organisations: A case in a Danish non-profit, member-driven food cooperative," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 258(2), pages 726-742.
    3. Hart, Diane & Paucar-Caceres, Alberto, 2017. "A utilisation focussed and viable systems approach for evaluating technology supported learning," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 259(2), pages 626-641.
    4. van Antwerpen, Coen & Curtis, Neville J., 2016. "A data collection and presentation methodology for decision support: A case study of hand-held mine detection devices," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 251(1), pages 237-251.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ejores:v:225:y:2013:i:1:p:118-129. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.