Do you know who these guys are? The one on the top is Sir Isaac Newton and the one on the bottom is Rene Descartes. They are the ones who influenced the nature of scientific thinking by leading us to believe that in order to understand complex phenomena we have to break it down into each part and understand those parts. This reductionism has shaped how we look at the world. It has shaped how we are taught to analyze and research things.

Yet, as we continue to try and improve the services available to those who experience homelessness, we hear the following:

“Our program sees the need to provide a more holistic approach to supporting homeless households.”

“Despite our best efforts we still see organizations operating in silos.”

“We need multiple services available on one site in order to meet the needs of those we are serving.”.

The reductionism that we are taught throughout our lives plays out in how we have defined social services. At the Bringing It Home Conference this year Partners for Impact will be challenging the ideas of Newtonian Science and introduce Systems Thinking and Systems Mapping to homeless service providers from across the State of North Carolina. 

According to Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, “Systems thinking [is] a way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems. This discipline helps us to see how to change systems more effectively and to act more in tune with the natural processes of the natural and economic world.”

One of the tools used by Systems Thinkers is a Systems Map. This is a visual representation that enables a community to understand the current system that is resulting in poor outcomes for people. It can create consensus on the nature of the underlying problems and build a common vision for a community change initiative. A great example of a systems map describing philanthropy can be found by visiting our YouTube Channel. Our session will be interactive and practical and will help you think through the homeless services system in your local community.