Systems Thinking & Grassroots Acting

One of the more popular lines of the late years is “Think global, Act local” but what does that actually mean?

As designers nowadays we focus more and more on systems thinking. Thinking of complex big issues and try to translate them into tangible actions. When working with governments or universities, this often has problems in execution. As policy makers and academia are very used to system or meta-level thinking, they are not used to translate this into real action. Our knowledge based society(ies) simply forgot how to act on the ground.

Visiting Peru last month I again found out that fortunately there are beautiful examples of organizations and enterprises that are able to both use Systems thinking from their academia background and take Grassroots action. Be it tackling the huge plastic pollution in the ocean with beach clean ups and awareness campaigns and selling alternative plastic bags (LOOP) or using community led development try to help rural communities in the Andes with malnutrition problems among children in these communities (AASD).


The lovely ladies of Life out of Plastic after a Scale Up workshop

In this I see an opportunity for these small organizations as well as Universities and governmental policy makers. These small organizations are willing to share there on the ground experience via educational programs, both by participatory research for professionals and active learning programs for students.

And for us as designer thinkers in this is also a change where we shouldn’t only “Design & Think but “Design, Act & Think” – DESIGNACTIN(G)(K)ING –

Author: Jeroen Spoelstra
Featured image: Jeroen Spoelstra





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