The starting place for working creatively with a systemic phenomenological approach is to understand the nature of wholes, and how parts and wholes inter-relate. Conventional thinking encourages us to focus on parts, often in the form of individual people or abstract components. At best we are encouraged to see ‘context’ as a collection of those parts – rather like the assembly of parts in a car engine. Indeed the prominence of a machine metaphor in the worldview of western organizational culture is testimony to this.
It is essentially a reductionist view that has many limitations when we are considering human beings and their living systems – classrooms, schools, communities and families. It encourages a view of performance, behavior and creativity as residing more in the individual rather than in the relationships between individuals – in the ‘space between’.
Adopting a systemic perspective is to turn this view through 180 degrees. Using it enables us to see parts as a fractal of the whole rather than as separate elements acting independently of each other. Peter Senge describes this holistic phenomenon as, ‘the whole exists through continually manifesting in the parts, and the parts exist as embodiments of the whole’, David Bohm as, ‘derived from a deeper reality in which what prevails is unbroken wholeness’.
The effect of a systemic view on how people and their organisations innovate and change is immense. The shift to seeing people as individuals who, in large part, gain identity through their social context – both immediate and historical – is a challenge to traditional psychological views of self. But how do we work with this in practice, in an educational or caring context?
ecl sees people – children, teenagers, young adults and indeed ourselves – in our wholeness. Developing potential is about nurturing of all our human capacities – our intellect, emotions, senses and intuition. Working with each faculty as a ‘way of knowing’ enhances health and motivation, accelerates learning and profoundly raises levels of achievement.
We understand that we are all inter-connected social beings living in a relational world, who find it almost impossible to exist in isolation. Where much of western psychology places a strong focus on us as separate, self-contained individuals ecl brings a systemic perspective highlighting the importance of relationship, with often startling results.
“there is tangible evidence that through its systemic approach, with and through parents and the community, that the community itself is being transformed in a positive way” (UK government IQ initiatives, 2013);
ecl’s approach provides leaders, practitioners and catalysts with a range of simple tools and processes as well as a framework of key underpinning principles about systems, that make the complex simple. By identifying the important aspects of a system and applying a knowledge of the laws that govern systems, people can see and sense the whole including a person’s place in it and the dynamics that exist in the relationship between the various parts.
The notion that systems have hidden laws of relationship can seem strange if viewed from a purely reductionist perspective. We can experience and understand the natural laws of gravity or centrifugal force acting on a physical system, but find it more difficult to appreciate the invisible dynamics acting in human systems. We experience these laws but do not readily identify them. And yet all human systems are influenced by four specific organizing principles that, if understood and respected, can greatly enable a system to flourish.
ecl’s systemic and phenomenological approach works with principles relating to belonging, place, exchange and time. Working with them enables leaders, practitioners and catalysts to prepare the ground for innovation, creativity, health and coherence in systems by first removing blocks and resolving issues (many seemingly intractable). By ensuring there is an ‘ease’ within and between systems, the conditions for people to learn creatively are improved considerably.
Taken together these form the basis of what ecl attends to and how it work with educators, carers’ and their organisations to allow children and young people to flourish.
“pupils’ have extremely positive attitudes to learning, even those whom in the past may have been disengaged from education” (Ofsted report Netherfield, 2013)