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Extension > Family Matters > Bringing Systems Thinking to our Work

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bringing Systems Thinking to our Work

The inclusion of policy, systems, and environment change strategies in our work requires a shift in our way of thinking. While thinking about how we can change behavior through direct education is still important, we also need to think about the systems in play that will affect participants' ability to make the desired behavior change after they leave our classes. We explored this topic in Health and Nutrition's Spectrum of Prevention modules with this video: Broc and the Systems. This video illustrates some of the systems that have an impact on a family's ability to make healthy choices. But there are many videos that cover this topic. In fact, if you search YouTube for “systems thinking,” you get over 20,000 results!

CartoonToday I wanted to share two of those videos. First, we have Systems Thinking and Evaluation. If I lost you at the word "evaluation," come back! Although the video was made for evaluators, it uses visuals that can help us all think about the big picture and what influences our work. This video contains useful information, particularly for Health and Nutrition, because it focuses on the systems that impact obesity.

The next video may be a little silly, but it still provides a good message. Systems Thinking: A Cautionary Tale helps demonstrate the concept that systems are interrelated, sometimes in ways that aren't immediately obvious. How is malaria related to parachuting cats? You'll have to watch the video to find out. This video is a good reminder that sometimes our actions have unintended consequences. Has your work ever resulted in unintended consequences, good or bad? Share your stories in the comments section below.

Does the idea of parachuting animals sound far-fetched?
Check out The True History Behind Idaho’s Parachuting Beavers from TIME.
These videos are just two of many resources that explore systems thinking. If you've found any resources that have been helpful for working on policy, systems, and environment change, please share them with me. We'd like to create a resource list to go along with the Spectrum of Prevention modules.

Laura Perdue
Extension Educator, Health and Nutrition

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