Donella Meadows, a professor at Dartmouth College, a long-time organic farmer, journalist, and systems analyst, was working on a book titled Thinking in. We love Donella Meadows’ take on nurturing systems. “The Dance” is a great motivator to post on the bulletin board at your think-tank, school. In her article, “Dancing with Systems,” the late and beloved Donella Meadows ( ) speaks to the mystery at the source of quest for wholeness. Self-organizing .

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The video is only a first step in the experiment of how to communicate systems and leverage points in new ways for young audiences, high school and college students, and young professionals in their early careers.

Donella Meadows – Wikipedia

This is a critical age, when people have a clearer sense of the complexity of current problems and when a systems perspective might help problem-solve and take action in a more holistic and effective way. We hope you enjoy it and can share it with your community!


We explored looking at systems from multiple views. Even the simplest-seeming systems can turn out to be much more complex than first thought. In this example, we explored a zooming out approach to reach the structures underlying a conella.

We started with the very everyday situation of a man stuck in traffic on his morning commute. Chickens making eggs which then make more chickens is an example of reinforcing or positive feedback.

An unlucky chicken crossing the road without looking for oncoming wth is a small example of negative feedback that helps to keep the chicken population in danccing. In this feedback example, a positive loop of fish reproducing increases the overall size of a school of fish. At the same time, pressure from predators and fishermen form negative loops that decrease the size of the school.

If these loops are in balance, the fish population will remain stable. Here, David illustrates a quota that limits the number of fish an individual can catch, as well as a minimum size a fish has to reach before it can be legally harvested.

This example includes numerous leverage points, include constants and parameters 12the buffer of the total fish population 11and the time delay for baby fish to reach adult size 9. Information flows are critical in systems.


Donella Meadows Publications

This humorous illustration gets at issues of information in a fishery system. How do we know how many fish are out there?

How do we know if fish are being harvested sustainably? Goals, mindsets, and paradigms sit at the very top of the hierarchy of leverage points.

The goals of a system can radically alter its behavior. The Academy occasionally sends E-newsletters with updates on the work of our fellows, the Donella Meadows Project and more. Sign up here if you’d like to stay connected.

A Visual Approach to Leverage Points. Gustavus Adolphus College Video: Select your interests below: