Inside our outside the box? Different approaches to multi-actor systems
Multi-actor are systems that comprise multiple actors, where the term 'actor' denotes an entity capable of cognition, deliberation and action. Individual persons, but also groups with various degrees of organization may be regarded as actors. Multi-actor systems - whether as simple as two neighbors sharing a car or as complex as an airline reservation system or the world climate negotiations - can be studied in different ways and for different purposes. Typically, the aim is to gain understanding (system analysis) or to realize changes (system design). In this presentation I will contrast two approaches to systems analysis and design. When taking the "actors inside the box" approach, the system analyst/designer considers actors as part of the system. Their needs and behaviors can be sampled and represented in ways that help the analyst understand causal relationships and identify policy levers. When taking the "actors outside the box" approach, the analyst/designer engages actors as co-analysts/designers. When these actors interact with each other about how - from their respective points of view - "their" multi-actor system works, how it performs, and how it could be improved, this ideally leads to better knowledge, social learning, and capacity for change. Such an interaction process needs a structure to be effective, regardless whether its purpose is "understanding" (participatory analysis as part of a scientific research project) or "changing" (participatory design as part of a system development project). Such a structure is itself a system - a belief development system - and I will illustrate with an empirical example that such systems can and should be designed using a systems approach.
letzte Änderung: Juni 2008