Reflections on "Leverage Points…" by Donella Meadows

I finally sat down for an hour and really processed the classic essay Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System by Donella Meadows:

I found the whole essay exceptionally meaningful. However, both when I skimmed in past years and when I tried to recall it today after fully reading, I really struggled to keep in mind the 12 points framework. Perhaps that’s because the headings are not self-explanatory enough. Or maybe it is because 12 points goes beyond the 5-9-item capacity of working memory. It might also just be complex and deep enough that I have a lot to keep learning before I really feel comfortable with all the points. Some of the concepts are more familiar to me than others. Overall, the essay itself made profound sense to me.

I wonder what people have since done in building upon her original essay… (anyone have particular insights there?)

I found this illustration that improves the accessibility by giving some extra structure (deep vs shallow, four categories of the 12 points):

And here’s a more nicely-illustrated and simplified wording with a different hierarchical structure:

Here’s a recent post from Humane Tech that made a derivative, simplified variant applied to tech:

Again, I don’t find any of this self-explanatory enough to be of value sharing just the list or illustration. I think others, like me, will likely need to read the whole original essay for this stuff to “click”.

Applying the leverage points to and crowdmatching

Rough thoughts about how this relates to us:

Parameters and buffers and flow-structure: Maybe this is our discussions about the specific numbers for match-rate, crowdmatch-goals, and maybe the scope of projects (like the scale of how much we want to include in what is “a” project on the site). We don’t get stuck on this too much. We know that this will get questions and input as we engage with outside projects, and this stuff will adapt as we get real-world data from real operations.

Feedbacks don’t seem easy to tweak, but maybe this involves questions like the requirements and hassle in putting in or removing a valid pledge, the monetary payment-processing hassles, the questions around the charging-in-arrears, and the issues of the delay between funding changes (increase and decrease) and the output of projects… Where else do these issues apply to us?

Design items involve the core concepts of crowdmatching, that there are projects and patrons, setups that affect the incentives of different players, the iterative ongoing nature of our system, game-theory stuff around what information we show to people and how it is presented (e.g. showing the graph of crowd-size over time, the ideas about what affect each pledge has, the ways that budgets/thresholds interact with pledges). It also relates to communication between projects and patrons and how progress is measured and presented (meaning projects doing work and showing results).

There’s a point in there about self-organization, effectively FLO processes, iterative, bottom-up sort of evolution… we have serious tensions around this. We celebrate FLO, but we have gotten stuck in a development state where we are failing to have effective iterative FLO process for our own work. This is probably the place we can make the most difference right now.

Intent is our core mission and vision. We are focusing on FLO public-goods, we have values in how we operate (using FLO tools ourselves, governance principles), we are conscious about the type of world we want and the purpose of our work, and so on. And we have a broader understanding that we are not necessarily stuck in the entire capitalist paradigm. We aim to work within a paradigm of cooperation, collaboration, abundance, and so on. Also, not engaging dogmatically or defensive about any of this…

Meadows emphasizes that none of this is strictly correct, it’s just a useful framework. Also, often the leverage points with the most impact can be the hardest to push.

Personal priorities

I’ve already been focusing on the most impactful leverage points. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our basic paradigm, my own conscious attitudes around everything… I have lots of notes and thoughts about how to engage mindfully, separating unarguable facts from stories, and acting from a “skillful” compassionate state (in a Buddhist sense) as opposed to a defensive/reactive state, and I want to revisit our Code of Conduct and our governance and everything from this sort of perspective. I’ve also been thinking about clarifying the FLO public-goods paradigm and what it means for influencing the way the whole world relates to creative projects. My deepest desire for is to help lead to paradigm-shift more than whether we thrive as a fundraising platform per se.

I see the value of all the different points. Whatever we are doing at any time, I think it’s helpful to reflect on where we are. We want to invest our time and energy accordingly, and we especially want to make sure we aren’t pushing in the wrong direction at any particular leverage point.

I would love to hear thoughts from others about all this.

Thank you for revealing the great work of Donella Meadows to me, @wolftune
I like the metaphor and used it in describing the first failed attempt of Smartlike in 2017 - thank-u: Value and money redefined on blockchain to fix ad blocking | by Vadim Frolov | Medium
Sorry for the poor English and naive wording there. It might still help improve my first unfortunate introduction. Since the previous incarnation we got rid of cryptocurrency: most current blockchain systems focus on the trust-less advantage and neglect trust, a powerful resource freely available in the world they are built for. Replacing the arbitrage of centralized systems with “miners” doesn’t make sense for donations, they can be efficiently distributed without middlemen. Thanks for the link to “Designing for trust” by Dan Ariely as well. I felt happy discovering it as this is exactly what we build on.

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