Understanding how systemic thinking can change society

Jan 31, 2023 | Campus News

Melanie Goodchild is aiming for people to think differently about the systems we encounter in society.

The Anishinaabe (Ojibway) complexity and systems thinking scholar delivered the President Lecture Series at Humber College on Jan. 31., and talked about complex systems and problems through the lens and knowledge of First Nation communities.

Goodchild is currently a PhD candidate in social and ecological sustainability at the University of Waterloo.

During the PLS Goodchild was asked how adaptive cycles within system changes apply to other complex issues, such as climate change and police brutality. “There is a framework that we start with when understanding systems,” she said.

Goodchild talked about her use of 3D and 4D mapping tools to help understand complex systems. The ranges of tools help to identify undesirable outcomes and tackle problems.

“Transformation is uncovering solutions and we call this sense-making,” she said.

“When we use something called the iceberg model, we can see that humanity spends a great deal of time on responding to the crisis without looking at the patterns, structure, or mental models,” Goodwill said.

She explains that when a person understands their sacred being, personal story, and higher teachings, this can help to understand societal problems.

Goodwill is also currently working with NASA to find ways to incorporate indigenous knowledge systems with geospatial data analysis.

“She is basically collaborating with members of an interdisciplinary team to determine how First Nations can use NASA’s data to reduce vulnerability to climate change,” the President’s Lecture Series Chair Ian Gerrie said.

Goodchild is from the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Ketegaunseebee First Nation communities. Gerrie said that although there are pros to in-person lectures, he is grateful she was able to deliver the lecture remotely via video conference.

“Melanie is based in Sault Sainte Marie and to come down at this time is difficult because she has a number of things going on,” he said.

The next President’s Lecture Series will be held in person, featuring Dr. Samira Kiani, a bioengineering professor who will speak about her use of CRISPR technology to cut and splice DNA.

It will be held in the North campus B-101 boardroom on Wednesday March 29 from noon to 1 p.m.