Twelve Leverage Points

The twelve leverage points to intervene in a system were proposed by Donella Meadows, a scientist and system analyst focused on environmental limits to economic growth. The leverage points, first published in 1997, were inspired by her attendance at a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) meeting in the early 1990s where she realized that a very large new system was being proposed but the mechanisms to manage it were ineffective.

Meadows, who worked in the field of systems analysis, proposed a scale of places to intervene in a system. Awareness and manipulation of these levers is an aspect of self-organization and can lead to collective intelligence.

Her observations are often cited in energy economics, green economics and human development theory.

She started with the observation that there are levers, or places within a complex system (such as a firm, a city, an economy, a living being, an ecosystem, an ecoregion) where a "small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything" (compare: constraint in the sense of Theory of Constraints).

She claimed we need to know about these shifts, where they are and how to use them. She said most people know where these points are instinctively, but tend to adjust them in the wrong direction. This understanding would help solve global problems such as unemployment, hunger, economic stagnation, pollution, resources depletion, and conservation issues.

Meadows started with a 9-point list of such places, and expanded it to a list of twelve leverage points with explanation and examples, for systems in general.

She describes a system as being in a certain state, and containing a stock, with inflows (amounts coming into the system) and outflows (amounts going out of the system). At a given time, the system is in a certain perceived state. There may also be a goal for the system to be in a certain state. The difference between the current state and the goal is the discrepancy.

For example, one might consider a lake or reservoir, which contains a certain amount of water. The inflows are the amount of water coming from rivers, rainfall, drainage from nearby soils, and waste water from a local industrial plant. The outflows might be the amount of water used up for irrigation of nearby cornfield, water taken by that local plant to operate as well as the local camping site, water evaporating in the atmosphere, and trickling surplus water when the reservoir is full.

Local inhabitants complain about the water level getting low, pollution getting higher, and the potential effect of hot water release in the lake on life (in particular, the fish).

This is the difference between the perceived state (pollution or low water level) and the goal (a non-polluted lake).

Other articles related to "twelve leverage points, leverage points":

Donella Meadows - Work - Twelve Leverage Points
... Meadows published Leverage Points Places to Intervene in a System, one of her best-known essays, in 1999 ...

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