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Title: Developing the application of systems thinking within the policing and community safety sector : an action research study
Author: Newsome, Ian Marshall
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 2479
Awarding Body: University of Hull
Current Institution: University of Hull
Date of Award: 2011
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The increasingly complex, dynamic and pluralistic nature of the policing and community safety environment is presenting a significant challenge to the problem structuring and solving approaches traditionally used by managers in this sector. In light of deficiencies of traditional approaches, developments in the field of systems thinking have sought to tackle problem situations more holistically, employing a variety of systems approaches in combination to improve success in problem situations of greater plurality and complexity. In particular, Critical Systems Thinking (CST) has evolved as a theory and philosophy to support multi-methodology problem solving. This action research focuses on the actual and potential use of systems approaches in the policing and community safety environment. The opportunity to address prevailing real-life problems through a series of practical systems interventions within a large UK police organisation, producing learning for both practitioners in the sector and for systems thinking more widely is the foundation upon which this action research study is justified and a number of salient findings have emerged that are of relevance to both communities. This action research has recognised the opportunity to improve the impact of CST through the wider devolution of appropriate capability. A recursive model to reflect upon the deployment of approaches appears to provide a coherent framework for recognising the concurrent existence of CST at different ‘application’ levels and for informing a deeper understanding of the role of the facilitator of CST; be that a specialist, an organisational leader or a member of the workforce involved in change. A particular value is seen in enhancing such development through the employment of culturally acceptable approaches, including the concept of policing problem archetypes that provide a platform for demonstrating the practical value of a diverse range of systems approaches. The research has identified value in the facilitator gaining and sustaining an appreciation of the landscape of diversity within problem situations and identifying centres of gravity in terms of defining features. It has also emphasised the validity and practical value of employing multi-methodology in parallel in both modes 1 and 2 in problem situations involving a variety of stakeholders that reflect multiple paradigm diversity. As the problem situations encountered in the policing and community safety sector increasingly involve multiple agencies, recognition of an improved capability for deploying such systems thinking is of particular relevance, such as through participative large group processes. An extensive exploration of the role of the facilitator of CST through the employment of a complexity lens has added clarity to the nature of that role within typically wicked problem situations. Extending the concept of the effective interventionist beyond the boundaries of the facilitator’s direct influence and recognising the variety of capability that the facilitator might require to secure improvement in diverse client systems. The research has also resulted in the development of a heuristic to enhance understanding of the role of the facilitator of CST. This formula identifies the variables that the facilitator of CST might need to handle in order to secure improvement in pursuance of an objective function for optimisation comprising a range of relevant measures associated with a variety of paradigms, subject to the incremental fulfilment of the condition for change reflected in the ‘Beckhard’ change formula.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Business