ISSS Integrated Systemic Inquiry Primer Project (ISIPP)


Edited by Tom Mandel


By Bela Banathy

Purpose, process, interaction, integration, and emergence are salient markers of understanding systems. Furthermore, we should think about and define human activity systems always at three levels. (1) A system serves the purpose of its collective entity. (2) It serves the purpose of its members. (3) It serves its environment ot the larger system in which it is embedded.

The statements that follow comprise an internally consistent definition and characterization of A HUMAN ACTIVITY SYSTEM -

is an assembly of people and other resources organized into a whole in order to accomplish a purpose. The people in the system are affected by being in the system, and by their participation in the system they affect the system. People in the system select and carry out activities -- individually and collectively -- that will enable them to attain a collectively identified purpose.

maintains sets of relations --- sustained through time -- among those who are in the system. The maintenance of these relations is of primary importance. The process by which these relationships are maintained is the system's regulation -- the rules of the game -- and the limits within which these rules can be sustained are the conditions of the systems stability through time,. It is here where commitment (to shared purpose) and motivation (to carry out activities) play such an important role,

Is open to and interacts with the environment; depends on it and contributes to it. The nature of its relationship with the environment is mutual interdependence. This interdependence imposes constraints and expectations on both the system and its environment responsively. The environment is expected to provide the resources and support that are required by the system.

acts as a whole toward itself and by itself -- by its internal relations and internal integration -- by which it can also sustain itself. Thus, while we view the system as a whole, at the same time we consider it as part of -- and embedded in -- its environment.

Systemic insight emerges from "application" of the dynamics of purpose seeking and purpose-fulfilling relational interaction and integration of the people as a system and its environment.

SUMMARY: In the above text we captured an initial view of the landscape of systemic inquiry as we considered its four main components (Systems philosophy, systems theory, systems methodology and systems application. We also explored systems types, and described the general characteristics of human activity systems. We can move on now to discuss the development of a systems view.

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