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

Listed author(s):
  • Espinosa, Angela
  • Walker, J.
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    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.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Journal of Operational Research.

    Volume (Year): 225 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 118-129

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ejores:v:225:y:2013:i:1:p:118-129
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2012.09.015
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    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.
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