Flying the dragon : elusive pathways to a sustainable future
Comeau, Christina Marie
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SubjectComplexity Thinking; Emergence; Participatory Governance; Systemic Intervention; Wicked Problems
Wicked problems, a class of complex problems said to be unsolvable, impede humanity's quest for a just and sustainable world. The UN 2030 Agenda to achieve its matrix of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) is behind schedule. While decades of discourse on the science of complexity offers hope, complexity thinking (sensemaking within the uncertainty of complex systems) is not yet widely adopted. A mind shift and leader competency in the application of complexity thinking could enable interventions that catalyze emergent outcomes and mitigation of the existential threats posed by wicked problems. This action research project engaged sustainability practitioners in complexity thinking as they compared leadership, complex system analysis, systemic intervention, and governance models to their lived experience. The primary aim of the study was to assess the value and potential form of complexity andragogy for sustainability professionals. The secondary aim was to understand foundational elements of a framework for managing complex social change. The study concludes that professional development of sustainability practitioners in complexity thinking is worthwhile. This and championing dialogue on emergence and governance among funders might accelerate sustainable development. Finally, the study recommends further applied research on frameworks for change in complex reflexive (living) systems.