We began with the goal of fixing broken systems by developing a process to essentially deconstruct them, understand them, and reconstruct them to work better. We saw that to work means to be functional, and to continue working means to be sustainable. We have seen that functionality and sustainability require internal and/or external support. Finally we have an analysis process to help determine areas of support and lack thereof, based upon internal designs, external conditions, feedback loops, and independent forces. Then a compatibility analysis process allows us to learn even more about how a given system might enhance or disrupt other systems.
We finally have all the pieces we need to analyze any system, structure, or institution. We are now ready to use this review process for a more complex system.
Let’s say that our watermill analysis was viewed favorably by our supervisor. Soon after our sustainable watermill design was completed, we were assigned a new project—a school.
The school is planned in a rural village named Landesby, which is upstream of the watermill. We learn that Landesby has several thousand inhabitants, including several hundred children who are raised in very traditional patterns. Their way of life is characterized by living among extended families, and learning by doing. This includes learning the village customs and religion, and usually as they mature, learning a craft or vocation.
It happens that a group of people believe Landesby’s children should have a more intellectually rigorous upbringing, so they want to create a school. The school proponents believe that this education (in reading, math, history, science, etc.) will make the children more capable of solving problems and making good decisions. They believe this will be good for the children, and by extension good for all of Landesby.
But there are also some school opponents who believe the children learn enough to get by already, and they don’t want to see resources directed to something that has never before been necessary.
The disagreement has led the school proponents to seek our assistance. They want us to verify that indeed, a village school is a sustainable idea. Further, they want us to help plan the school’s establishment or design in ways that will be sustainable. After listening to the claims of some school proponents, most members of our design team agree that a school sounds like a good idea, and they are eager to begin investigating the issue.
If we do our job well, a sustainability analysis should even yield helpful information on specific school designs or elements that are more sustainable, and it should highlight issues or designs that are problematic or less sustainable.
Even though we will be working for the school proponents, and even though we might have an initial tendency to agree with them, we recognize that our job is to carefully analyze the situation—remaining as open-minded and neutral as possible. Our design team moves forward, hoping for an accurate analysis that will improve the final decision and diminish disagreements.
A Village School Example continues…