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Loops of Learning Session #3

For this third session I was very privileged to have faciliation and planning assistance from Andrew Brown, research fellow at Deakin University. Andrew has provided me a gateway in to the world of Systems Thinking and has really expanded my thinking over the past two years.


Our first Loops of Learning session was an open conversation about the crisis of our time, and Andrew had produced a systems map of the evenings conversation. It ended up looking like this:

The second session had considered the themes for a better life and we ended up with:


Power and Equity;

Connection and Empathy; and

Freedom and Choice.


This third session created a matrix of the four systems maps (categorised under two key systems archetypes, Shifting the Burden. and Limits to Growth) and the themes of a better life.


Systems Archetype = Shifting the Burden

Summary: Making sense of a complex world is difficult and so we filter the world, sometimes through misinformed judgements which create silos, so in an attempt to make sense of things we are actually reinforcing the silos which make it hard for us to connect.

Systems Archetype = Shifting the Burden

Summary: In an attempt to do the right thing for our children by creating safe spaces for them we inadvertently reduce their resilience. This reinforces the silos that prevent us from connrdecting and empathising with each other.

Systems Archetype = Limits to Growth

Summary: The growth in technology has created complex systems able to connect the world in new ways. This has positive impacts, but also drives profit and greed which inadvertently creates inequality.

Systems Archetype = Limits to Growth

Summary: Technological growth has created global connections and complexity that could be a force for good. However, the oligopoly of big techology companies has reinforced silos and enabled conflict which they diffuse responsibility for by claiming freedom of choice in how these complex systems are used.


The final matrix looked like this:



Everyone split off in to small groups and discussed the barriers and enablers between their chosen intersection (eg, technology, power and equity) and wrote their ideas around the circumference of a circle.


Once the circle had a number of items written around its perimeter, each group was asked to draw up lines of connection between each idea,


Photograph by Linda Oliveri.


A final step was then creating a narrativea round these lines of connection to generate the themes for our next session. We ended up with the following themes:


Digital Division

Common Knowledge

Reinforcing Silos


Our next session in May will hone in on how we develop good questions around some of these systemic themes. We'll consider the deeper questions we need to ask inorder to understand more about each area.


If you'd like to join one of our sessions, please subscribe to our mailing list via the Loops of Learning homepage and you'll receive notice of events.


If you would also like to understand more about Systems Thinking I encourage you to read 'Thinking in Systems - A Primer' by Donella H Meadows.


I have also been inspired by Systems Thinking podcast by Mike MetCalfe, if you are more of a listening learner.

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