biomatrix systems theory blog

thoughts on governance in the information age


This paper represents a collection of thoughts (based on previous research by Elisabeth Dostal) on some aspects of information age governance. It is intended to write a more carefully considered scientific article on this theme at a later stage.

The purpose of this paper is to stimulate discussion on information age governance and inspire feedback on the thoughts expressed in it.

The main body of the paper is concerned with introducing systemic cooperative strategy as a possible ideological stance for the information age.

Appendix 1 discusses the dialectic origin of a Systemic Cooperative Strategy.

Appendix 2 distinguishes between two types of systems and the implication of this on governance.

Appendix 3 is a brief reflection on some of the governance challenges of the information age.

systemic cooperative strategy

definition of systemic cooperative strategy

Systemic Cooperative Strategy is the deliberate striving of a system to cooperate with other systems in order to co-produce a shared desirable future of the containing whole.

The containing whole could either be an entity system (e.g. a family, neighbourhood community, society, humanity as a whole), or an activity system (e.g. the functions of an organisation or a society; a supply chain spanning different organisations and nations).

Systemic Cooperative Strategy represents a worldview. It is deployed in a principled and not haphazardous manner. It is a law-like strategy that has its origins in dialectic thinking (especially in the laws of dialectics as applied in revolutionary strategy.

what systemic cooperative strategy is not

cooperative strategy versus systemic cooperative strategy

Different stakeholders and political parties have always cooperated, if it suited them (e.g. as lobbies in pursuing shared aims that provide win / win for themselves), or out of necessity (e.g. when they realise that unless they cooperate or compromise they would lose as well).

(Note: In complex situations, a win / lose stance often becomes a lose / lose one, because if the losing part realises that they cannot win, they can undermine the winner.)

The conventional cooperative stance is driven by self-interest. By comparison, systemic cooperation is aimed at creating win / win between the cooperating systems for the larger whole.

cooperative strategy versus cooperative

There is also a difference between cooperative strategy and a cooperative.

A cooperative strategy, either of the conventional or systemic kind, is an action stance of a social system with the aim of pursuing cooperation.

By comparison, a cooperative is a social entity system whose parts are legally bound and organised to cooperate with each other.  A cooperative can subscribe to cooperative strategy (i.e. to cooperate with other independent systems) or not.

how does systemic cooperative strategy work

Systemic cooperative strategy involves

(1)  co-designing with the other stakeholders an ideal future of the containing whole in terms of a shared

  • ideal ethos (e.g. values of the desirable and not desirable / acceptable)
  • ideal aims both as outcomes (i.e. end aims) and strategies to achieve the outcomes (i.e. means aims)
  • ideal governance (e.g. coordinating rules, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms)

(2)  designing the own contribution for co-producing the shared ideal future (i.e. each stakeholder has a unique functional contribution; for example, to co-produce an ideal school, the pupils, teachers, administrators, school principal, department of education and parents have a different contribution to make that only they can make; if one stakeholder fails to deliver its share, the whole and the other parts will suffer).

(3)  using a dialectic approach in change management that furthers the development of the containing whole. (See Appendix 1 for a deeper discussion).

In practical terms the dialectic approach means

  • agreeing with, aligning with, supporting other stakeholders if it is seen as working towards the shared futures (i.e. exerting form creating governance), while
  • pointing out if another stakeholder works against the shared future and trying to persuade them to change course (i.e. exerting form creating governance), or using various actions derived from form maintaining governance (e.g. holding them to agreed on rules), or form destroying governance (e.g. legal action against them, withdrawal of funds).

application of systemic cooperative strategy

Systemic cooperative strategy can be used to develop an

  • entity system (e.g. as in nation and community building) or
  • activity system (i.e. a functional system like an education system, and a supply chain, like the energy supply chain).

See Appendix 2 for a more in depth discussion on this.

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