Systems Sensing and Systemic Constellation for Organizational Transformation
Building Collective Capacity for Navigating Complexity
Keywords:systems thinking, systems sensing, systemic constellations, social change, organizational development, complexity
This paper examines how a systems sensing—or felt-sense—approach and orientation to inquiry and systemic constellation practice might help social change organizations cultivate capacities to better navigate complexity, both in their outer-facing work and internal dynamics as teams and as individuals. We present a pilot study of systemic constellation practice, sharing the experience of participants during and after the practice, as well as our own reflexive process. Currently an undertheorized and underutilized approach within systems thinking work, systems sensing and systemic constellation, can reveal less visible but nevertheless foundational dynamics at play in an organizational body, and can help create more awareness through widening ways of knowing in the organizational playground. We explore how the facilitated collective sense-making process of systemic constellation engages subtle ways of knowing specifically energetic, relational, and embodied knowing, building on what Heron and Reason (2008) have called an “extended epistemology.” As we suggest, these more subtle ways of knowing warrant further study, particularly as they may contribute to action research methods and foster a more participatory culture of transformation at both an organizational and societal level.
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