Syntegration Topic (Return to List of Topics)


Topic ICT May Enrich the Modelling Process by Expanding the Boundaries of Agreement
Participants | Roger Harnden | Alfonso Reyes | Clas-Otto Wene | Roberto Zarama |
Critics | David Best | Raul Espejo | Keith Pheby | Barnaby Sheppard |

Meeting 1 Notes

Meeting 2 Notes

Meeting 3 NotesOutcome Resolve

Co-ordinator = Alfonso Reyes


  • It is useful to see the coupling between modelling to support the policy process and this process as a series of learning systems. This can be represented by the attached figure at the end of this document.
  • There are double loop learning between the learning systems and between them and the system in focus.
  • Now, within the system in focus there are recursive levels, so the problem that naturally arises is that of a balance between cohesion and autonomy in each pair of consecutive recursion levels.
  • It seems that ICT has potentially improved the possibility to do recursive modelling allowing moving this balance towards autonomy.
  • In this sense, we could formulate two possible research objectives: as the development of the models to discover autonomy, or to distinguish the autonomies that matter to us in the area we are defining.
  • Because the modelling and policy making has been formulated now as learning systems, it is important to realise that learning is more than increasing our capacity to do distinctions, it is increasing our capacity to effective action. Therefore, the models and policies produced by the policymaking have to be grounded in the structure of the system-in-focus. This is what in previous meeting we refer to as the grounding of the informational domain of the policy and modelling domain into the operational domain of the system in focus.
  • In organisations we are not closing the loop ourselves (as individuals) that is why different people are involved in policy-making; but a structure of resources is needed for producing effective action.
  • How can we translate new distinctions into effective action? This is perhaps, one of the most important questions of policy making.
  • The current model, however, is missing four crucial aspects:
  1. - The System in focus is not necessarily recursive.
  2. - It seems important to distinguish different policies, between requirements (orders or demands) and declarations that can increase new distinctions.
  3. - I don't like to see that the system in focus is something outside there. The system in focus is embedded and embeds itself. The linearity of the diagram is not trivial.
  4. - A necessary condition for a recursive social system is the development of citizenship. That implies to have a structure of embedded and embedding autonomies units. We will have a recursive modelling of a recursive policy-making system.
  • In this sense there is no "system in focus" out there for the policy and modelling system. You are the systems-in-focus that is self modelling, a self policy-making. Citizenship will reaffirm itself through the modelling exercise.
  • In fact, we are differentiating between modelling and policy making in observed systems and in observing systems.


  • In the first place, notice that the system in focus does embed the policy-group; in the second place a loop in missing from the system in focus (on the diagram) to the modelling process to take into account the grounding of distinctions resulted from the policy making into effective actions. And in the third place, what we actually have in an organisation is not a clear, linear diagram form the modelling and policy making but a recursive network of activities that includes modelling, policy, action distributed at different levels of the organisation. This multiple levels are lost in the linearity of the diagram.
  • Why you are not just using the VSM in diagnostic mode to tackle the problem instead of developing a new model for this process?
  • Why are we being 'conclusion-led' in this group?
  • The issue raised here is formalising the modelling effort enhances the organisations potentials to reflect on itself.
  • Are ICT's increasing organisation's awareness about themselves; the cohesion between autonomous recursive units.


  • The diagram (including the VSM) tends to be used in a sort of "experts mode" rather than in a people's "democratic mode". The latter is a way of unfolding the citizenship of the system.
  • In the diagram we have to make explicit the modelling of the environment and also a model of the modelling process itself. These will make double-loop learning explicit.
  • The diagram should have a multiple recursion loops connecting the modelling to the action.
  • One question we can ask is how ICT is making a non-expert modelling as a self-reflection process learning to assure effective action.
  • This implies that if the modelling is not only a representation of the system in focus but also takes into account the medium of the system in focus, we are getting in the non-experts from the community that are relevant to the outcome of the process into the modelling and policy making process.
  • Therefore, how do we transform modelling into a 'non-expert' effort whilst, at the same time, keeping the integrity of the modelling effort?
  • ICT offers a useful tool if we use it and design it in an interactive way (i.e. not forced by technology, or in a demand way) as a conversational tool. In this sense modelling is becoming a way to co-ordinate 'distributed dialogues'.
  • The problem with experts arises when they become institutions, which assume a monopoly over actions. This applies to experts in a modelling process and perhaps we need to develop a different approach. We certainly need some tools, but tools must not become institutional.
  • We may synthesised the point by saying that 'experts do modelling but modelling should produce non-expert knowledge for the operational domain. The expert needs to support the people. But notice that the citizens have knowledge that the expert needs, so it is a two-way relationship.
  • Our conclusion now is that an expert is for sensitively engender encouraging individuals who constitute the system in focus. Not just for providing expertise. We provide as an object of reflection a model to clearly incorporate the first statement within it.

Working Diagram of Policy Making