Who we are and what makes us Peripeteia
“We are global citizens united by the aspiration, and persistence in our efforts, to develop the distributed capacity for thinking and acting systemically, so people make decisions collectively for a just, more peaceful society and healthy relationship with our planet.”
eripeteia is an evolving global community of passionate systems thinking practitioners and institutional entrepreneurs. We are global citizens united by the aspiration, and the same time by the struggle, to improve the well-being of our planet and of our society. This urges all of us to think critical together and to take collective, strategic action in a complex interconnected world, with interdependent issues, where contrasting understandings, motivations, goals and interests can often lead to institutional contradictions, fragmented value creation and unintended consequences caused by our actions.
The UN Sustainable Development Goal no.4 places great emphasis on education, with the UNESCO advocating for education which facilitates the enactment of Global Citizenship. The United Nations Systems Leadership Framework and the OECD, calls for Systems Thinking in Action and for co-creation through inter-organisational relationships.
We at Peripeteia share this vision, with a conviction that Global Citizenship must be enacted upon by all of us, with a much needed distributed capacity for systemic inquiry and applied systems thinking as the foundation to realise the Sustainable Development Goals.
n a community of practice do we build and enlarge capacity, not dependency, in individuals, groups and organisations to think and act systemically as global citizens. We foster capabilities to make individual and collective decisions with ethical, institutional awareness, and political, cultural sensitivity. We nurture the capacity to strategically utilise understanding of Intrapersonal and interrelationships, with appreciation of multiple perspectives and critical engagement with unequal power relations. Through a systemic inquiry cycle do we enable our partners to become a resilient and effective community for systemic action, to engage flexible with complexity and uncertainty, and to negotiate, co-create and enact strategies for systemic change. As our partner regain their resilience to enact systemic change, they become the seeds to grow an evolving global ecosystem for systemic action, with the distributed capacity to change together how our story as global society unfolds.
Change the way how our story unfolds …
Meet the Jugglers at Peripeteia
I’m Barbara Schmidt-Abbey. I’m German but live in Dublin (Ireland) since 1991 – that’s now longer than I lived in Germany, so I suppose I’m half-Irish at this point! I’m married to an Irishman and we have a 21-year-old son (a Science student in college).
I originally came to Dublin to work at the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), a Dublin-based tripartite EU agency providing knowledge to assist in the development of better social, employment and work-related policies. I still work there now (fulltime), in my current role as Monitoring & Evaluation Officer, dealing with aspects of performance measurement and evaluation of the agency’s own programmes (and other related things). Prior to this role which I hold since 2007, I worked in information systems design and development, web contract management and similar more technical and business analysis roles.
I hold a BA (Diplom (FH) in information science (Germany (Univ of Applied Sciences, Cologne, 1986), a Master of Business Administration (MBA) (Open University, UK, 2008), and an MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) (Open University, UK, 2016).
While studying the core course modules of this STiP programme, I have developed a deep appreciation of, and passion for, the value of systems thinking and systems practice, which profoundly challenges the linear and reductionist approaches of dominant practices we encounter in mainstream (public) management, research, development, policymaking, evaluation and so on – and the conviction that it is critical to share awareness and knowledge about the insights from systems thinking and practice as widely as possible, so that we can collectively contribute towards systemically desirable ‘design turns’ in many endeavours of societal and social concern.
My trajectory across these studies and my work experiences has taken me from originally being firmly rooted in the realm of the ‘systematic’ and ontological understanding of systems towards an increasing shift towards a ‘systemic’ and epistemic understanding and engagement. This has had consequences for my practice in monitoring and evaluation: whilst I started out as a believer in ‘measuring’ performance and ‘impact’ according to the Results-Based Management paradigm, I have become increasingly critical over the years of the underlying linear and reductionist assumptions which are at the core of current monitoring and evaluation practices and tools (such as the log frame, management by objectives, and the widespread belief that everything, including ‘impact’ of interventions could be measured (and managed).
In my experience, these approaches do not hold up considering the complexity and uncertainty inherent in (social) changes. For example, research and evaluation approaches hailed as ‘gold standards’ such as Randomized Control Trials and other quantitative methods may have their (limited) uses, but I believe that much damage is being done through their sometimes mindless application and dominance in the ‘evidenced-based policymaking’ paradigm which still underpins much of current evaluation and social research practice within that paradigm. However, things are changing – there is growing recognition of the challenges of complexity and systemic characteristics in interventions in the evaluation field, to which I am keen to contribute in my professional practice as monitoring and evaluation practitioner. Systems thinking offers a range of approaches (mindsets as well as ‘tools’ (a range of systems methodologies taught on the STiP programme) which can help us to engage more systemically in all sorts of ‘systems’ and situations characterized by change.
Taking my passion for systems thinking in practice to the next level, I also study (part-time) towards a PhD with the Open University (Applied Systems Thinking in Practice Group). I work on the topic ‘Towards Systemic Policy Analysis and Evaluation at the Science-Policy Interface’ (expected completion in 2024). The research questions I’m looking at include:
- What new understandings can be gained from a systemic exploration about the practices of providing scientific or evaluative knowledge to policymakers?
- What can be observed in boundary organisations about the (changing) role of (i) research institutions, (ii) evaluation practices, (iii) complexity and systems thinking ideas, in supporting policy ‘interventions’ (understood as human design and implementation through projects, programs and policy)?
- How can practitioners in such practice constellations make the provision of evidence and knowledge to policymakers more systemic / complexity-sensitive?
Barbara’s publications (so far):
- https://orcid.org/0000 – 0003-3125 – 1163
my social media presence:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/BSchmidtAbbey2 (personal)
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbara-schmidt-abbey-282a191/
Carrie is a graphic recorder, illustrator and conservationist based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her work is inspired by interconnections between humanity and the environment and she harnesses the power of visual communication to deepen and strengthen these connections. Carrie’s current path as a visual practitioner has grown from her experiences as a naturalist, environmental educator, sustainability planner and social science researcher. Art has always been a core passion of hers and she feels incredibly grateful for the opportunity to utilize this strength to support social and environmental change around the world. You can view her portfolio at http://www.heartwoodvisuals.com.
Michael von Kutzschenbach
Michael von Kutzschenbach
He studied Forest and Environmental Sciences at the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg (Germany) and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Norway) and obtained his PhD on the topic of “organizational learning and informal social networks”. His research interests lie in the interaction of hard and soft systems thinking, especially in the areas of organizational learning and management for “less unsustainability” in an increasingly digital world. He has published on the complex challenge of managing sustainability, digital transformation, and feedback systems thinking.
In addition to his research and teaching activities at FHNW, he is the founder of “mvk – Kutzschenbach Institute for Sustainability Studies” supporting organizations as a systems and complexity coach.
Selected Articles and Book Contributions:
von Kutzschenbach, M. and Daub C.-H. (2019). Entrepreneurship For Sustainable Innovation – Changing The System To The Better. NBM 2019 – 4th International Conference on New Business Models, July 1 – 3, 2019. ESCP Europe Berlin, Germany.
Luthe, T. and von Kutzschenbach, M. (2016). Building Common Ground in Mental Models of Sustainability. Sustainability: The Journal of Record, 9(5), 247 – 254.
Brønn, C. and von Kutzschenbach, M. (2014). Engaging Sustainability – A Multilevel Approach to Strategic Sustainability Challenges. 20th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference Norwegian University of Science and Technology, June 18 – 20, 2014. Trondheim, Norway.
von Kutzschenbach, M., and Brønn, C. (2010). You can’t teach understanding, you construct it: Applying social network analysis to organizational learning. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 4, 83 – 92.
von Kutzschenbach, M., and Brønn, C. (2006). Communicating sustainable development initiatives: Applying co-orientation to forest management certification. Journal of Communication Management, 10(3), 304 – 322.
My personal story started as relatively young social entrepreneur, where I was confronted with serious illness in my own family, which let me deeply think about the many causes eventually leading to the slow decay of the quality of life, held thus far as taken for granted. This sparked my interest to better understand the interdependent forces causing the deterioration of our well-being and the same time my aspiration to explore ways to improve, what I felt was a very dysfunctional system. I have been fortunate to meet other equally passionate and caring people, which let me to create various social enterprises with a focus on systemic change, the interplay between health, work and quality of life. Systems thinking was at that time relatively new to us, but soon became an established practice to better understand the real-world challenges of our beneficiaries, of the people which we thought as part of the problem and part of the solution, with appreciation of informal and formal institutions, their values, norms and goals, which informed collaboratively design of services and technologies more in tune with the individual needs, as opposed to follow the now so common scalability paradigm. Our work became centered around systems thinking methodologies informing our strategies and critical reflecting on our practice, while also strengthened the capacity of our partners to apply systems thinking to their own practice. Our approach let me to rewarding work in different cultural contexts, with communities, governments, private and public stakeholders and the development of exciting partnerships in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The ingenuity of people confronted with serious deterioration of their quality of life, the rich and yet untapped creative capacity in every person in any organisational setting, the strength and yet fragmentation of personal, of inter-organisational relationships, the need for reflection, openness, collaborative learning and patience for mutual trust building and shared understanding, has been one of the many important lessons learned for me.
Whether working in a social entrepreneurial capacity or in an advisory role to foster joint innovation and industry collaboration in the healthcare sector, what I became to realise are deeply embedded common challenges, such as changing our established ways to see the world and others, to reflect on our ingrained believes how the world works and ought to work, and the marginal developed critical capacity to see the world through the eyes of others. These challenges I believe, pose significant obstacles to come together, to work in a true, trusted partnership, which is required to understand the many interrelated challenges of our time, and to co-create strategies for systemic change.
Peripeteia was founded on the believe and conviction, that our individual and collective capacity for systems thinking and action needs to be developed and nurtured, which will enable us to co-create strategies for fundamental, systemic change. As a community of practitioners, or as we call them “Jugglers”, we deeply care for the well-being of our society and our planet, with a shared passion and dedication to critically engage with many of the complex challenges of our time and to explore new pathways together for a better quality of life and relationship with our planet.
We are looking forward to having a dialogue with you, writing a new chapter of our society together, which will change the way how our story unfolds.