Peacebuilders are struggling with a series of challenging and important imperatives: how to build more sustainable, locally-owned initiatives; how to avoid negative impacts; and how to do more with fewer resources. Many have looked to systems thinking and com-lexity science for help. This post is meant to help inform that search.
Before exploring what systems thinking and complexity science can offer peacebuilders, it is important to say what they do not offer. Systems thinking and complexity are not “magic bullets” that can instantly reveal the answer to intractable problems. And, while systems and complexity offer a powerful critique of more linear, short-term approaches, they are not a rejection of traditional practice. Finally, even though the rage in many parts of the field is to find the right tools, systems thinking and complexity approaches to peacebuilding are not just a set of tools.
So what do systems thinking and complexity have to offer peacebuilders?