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We’re entering our work with well-being in the educational system with systems thinking lenses. This means that we are looking for  one truth, but are learning about systems through holistic and interconnectedness.

A system is a unit that preserves its existence through mutual interactions between its individual parts. It’s not the individual parts that are interesting or the characteristics of the system, but the interactions and interconnectedness between the parts. 

We’re moving away from reductionist and mechanistic thinking, which fooled us into believing that, eventually, we could figure everything out and fix parts that would cure the whole. We would control it all, even life and death. Entering an ecological paradigm we acknowledge:  “Nature can’t be fixed and does not exist in parts - it only exists because of its ability to heal the wholeness” Peter Senge.

The complexity scientist, Dave Swoden explains how complex challenges approach represents “unknown unknowns” and how new patterns can emerge. When we look upon educational institutions as living systems we enter the domain of complexity. We learn from the past, by experimenting, sensing, and acting, realizing emerging future possibilities.

To address a complex challenge we need to engage the parts of the system in the process. We tend to assume that parts, or actors, will speak up naturally, but this is not always the case. People sometimes need a sort of trigger to be able to see beyond their reality and comment on it. This is why it’s so important to include actors in the co-creation process instead of assembling a team of experts . 

Contextuality is one of Bateson’s key concepts for understanding systems thinking in theory and practice. How we understand a given action or episode can only be understood by looking at the context in which it happens. Bateson’s concept of context is centered around time, place, and relations. Thus it's essential to understand “at what point something is done, where it takes place, and who is acting in relation to whom”. 

Thought leaders, the likes of author Carol Sanford, are as well working to “evolve the personal and organizational capacity to discover and become a greater expression of one’s essence in a way that contributes to one’s role nested in a living system.” Meaning that to shift a larger system, you must build the capacity of those in it. Attempting to foster systems change without building the capacity to “see” systems lead to a lot of talk and very little result