By Hossein Hosseini, Enayat A. Moallemi, Sibel Eker, Edoardo Bertone and Katrina Szetey
What are systems archetypes and how can they be used to bring a deeper understanding of causal drivers, potential dynamic behaviour in the future, and policy resistance when tackling complex problems, including those in sustainable development?
Systems archetypes are recurring generic systems structures found in many kinds of organisations, under many circumstances, and at many levels and scales. They are distinctive combinations of reinforcing and balancing processes theoretically rooted in systems thinking and modelling.
There are eight common archetypes, each with specific underlying causal drivers (eg., feedback loops, delay), expected dynamic behaviour (eg., acceleration, disruption, tipping point), and policy implications (eg., how to respond, where to intervene). Archetypes can help shift an analytical focus from simple behavioural correlations or a limited understanding of interactions between certain goals to a generalised knowledge of recurring patterns, causes, and consequences.