A Case Study of Theories of Systemic Change and Action — The Ecotrust Canada Home-Lands initiative

Last updated Mar 7, 2023 | Originally published Mar 7, 2023

In this presentation, we reported on a case study of the Ecotrust Canada Home-Lands initiative. Lewis and I worked with Ecotrust Canada to understand the challenges they were addressing from a systemic design lens and, using that approach, to develop a theory of systemic change and action for the initiative.

An interesting development in the work was the development of a novel systemic evaluation technique: resonance and dissonance tests. The tests were designed as a way of testing our understanding of the system without interrupting or intruding on the processes of the initiative. The general idea behind resonance and dissonance tests is to identify a set of phenomena in your understanding of the system and to search for disconfirming evidence that those phenomena are complete and accurate. So, for instance, if you think a key phenomenon in the system is “community distrust of bureaucracy”, look for examples of the community trusting bureaucracy. If you can’t find any, it increases the integrity of the theory you’ve created.