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Soft Systems: an Interdisciplinary Method Dr Karen Bowler Marine and Coastal Policy Research Group School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Soft Systems: an Interdisciplinary Method Dr Karen Bowler Marine and Coastal Policy Research Group School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences. The Irish Sea: a socio-ecological system. Marine management Sustainability :

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Soft Systems: an Interdisciplinary Method Dr Karen Bowler Marine and Coastal Policy Research Group School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences

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Soft systems an interdisciplinary method dr karen bowler marine and coastal policy research group school of earth o

Soft Systems: an Interdisciplinary MethodDr Karen BowlerMarine and Coastal Policy Research GroupSchool of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences


The irish sea a socio ecological system

The Irish Sea: a socio-ecological system

  • Marine management

  • Sustainability:

    ‘Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generation s to meet their own needs.’ Brundtland 1987

  • Ecosystem wellbeing fundamental

  • Humans are part of the ecosystem.


The problem why is marine conservation failing to deliver

Ecosystem

PRESSURES

Environmental

STATE

CHANGES

Societal

DRIVERS

IMPACTS

on Society

Societal

RESPONSES

The Problem – Why is marine conservation failing to deliver?’

  • D-P-S-I-R

  • Science-policy gap

  • Barriers to change

  • ESRC/NERC

  • Multiple disciplines involved

  • Which methods?


Disciplines

Disciplines

INTERDISCIPLINARITY

Academia

‘Disciplinary silos’

Civil society

‘Sage on stage’

After Brand, R & Karvonen A, 2007


Soft systems

Soft systems

Why use soft systems?

  • Current focus – marine science and human activities framed exclusively within the scientific paradigm.

  • These approaches therefore necessarily fail to consider the ultimate, societal, causes of environmental degradation.

    Advantages:

  • ‘messy’ situations

  • ‘soft’/multiple problem definitions

  • Context sensitive

  • Include many kinds of information

  • Clarify assumptions, values, purpose

  • Critical system for action (Ulrich, W)


Soft systems1

Soft systems

What is a system?

  • A ‘Holon’ -Greater than sum of parts

  • Structured by its components, interactions and feedbacks

  • Persistent in face of change

  • What are Soft Systems?

  • A ‘thinking tool’, ‘a sense-making approach’ (Checkland P, 1981)

  • A process of enquiry using systems tools and thinking

  • ‘holons’ developed to structure debate, compare with real world, consider changes

  • Can be issue-based or task-based (O.R.)

  • Ideally – with multiple stakeholders

  • Iterative learning cycle


Soft systems an interdisciplinary method dr karen bowler marine and coastal policy research group school of earth o

Step 3

Model development

Step 4

Model analyses

Step 2

Screening -

system boundaries

probs/opps

Ongoing evaluation

Step 5

Interpretation of

results

Step 1

Scoping -

Explore the context

Step 6

Take Action

START

Step 7

7-step method – iterative, refined, results of several cycles

After Checkland, 1981


Context rich pictures

Context – Rich Pictures


Problems opportunities

Problems/Opportunities:

A ‘Mess’

  • Marine environmental damage/degradation

  • Scientific uncertainty

  • Multiple legislatory challenges: Marine Protected Areas, shipping, fishing, tourism, conservation,

  • Conflicting interests: high population, high consumption levels, energy demands, economic competitiveness, global links

  • Sustainability – economic? social?

  • Root Definition: Transformation of a non-sustainable Irish Sea into a sustainable Irish Sea?


Scale boundaries

Scale, Boundaries,


Multiple cause diagram 1

Multiple-cause diagram 1


Multiple cause diagram 2

Multiple-cause diagram 2


Influence diagram

Influence diagram


Critical system

Critical System

Critical components identified:

Causes: Failures in Legislation, Management, Modelling, Technology use

Influences: Feedback loops

Economic growth-energy-trade

Externalities-short-termism-Overshoot

Critical areas for action e. g. Strengthen weakly interacting feedback at long-term interests


Wider discussion

Wider discussion

  • The Irish Sea itself does not comprise a holon.

  • Scientifically defined ‘ecosystem’

  • Politically divided

  • Statistical data at national level

  • Subject to multiple influences from system environment

  • A sustainable Irish Sea is a long way from reality.


Conclusions

Conclusions

Soft systems methods provide a key link in developing our understanding of complex, trans-disciplinary issues. They:

  • Extend understanding to multiple, underlying causes eg advertising, outside usual consideration

  • Construct a holistic picture of context and interrelationships which influence (non)-sustainability

  • As a learning cycle, could offer much more if practiced on the ground in stakeholder fora.


Soft systems an interdisciplinary method dr karen bowler marine and coastal policy research group school of earth o

DPSIR and Data

Natural Sciences

‘ WHAT HAPPENS’

Quantity

PRESSURES

Speed

Needs Wants

Volume

STATE

CHANGES

DRIVERS

Power

Area

Social Sciences

‘WHY IT HAPPENS’

Beliefs,

Values

Size

RESPONSES

Feelings

IMPACTS


Soft systems an interdisciplinary method dr karen bowler marine and coastal policy research group school of earth o

Natural Sciences

Value Neutral

PRESSURES

More Data

Reduce uncertainty

Relationships

Context

STATE

CHAGES

DRIVERS

Consensus

Social Sciences

Value Pluralism

Pattern

Process

Empathy

Respect

Commitment, Vision

RESPONSES

IMPACTS

DPSIR and Epistemologies

‘Rational’

‘Non-Rational’


Current basis for marine sustainability

Chemistry

Resource

management

Conservation

of habitats and

species

Fisheries

Science

Oceanography

Ecology

Biology

Current basis for marine sustainability

‘…based on sound science’ – as opposed to unsound science


Extended basis for marine sustainability

Scientific Basis

Chemistry

Resource

management

Conservation

of habitats and

species

Fisheries

Science

Oceanography

Ecology

Biology

Extended basis for marine sustainability

‘…based on sound science’ – but only as a basis – cultural values

Context, advertising, global economy,

unequal distribution of benefits, trade-offs,

advertising, short term benefit v ultimate aims,.

Where are we really going?

Is it good or bad – beyond science


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