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Facilitating self-organization in non-hierarchical communities: a methodology for regeneration programs

Cardoso Castro, Pedro Pablo


Pedro Pablo Cardoso Castro


Angela Ma. (Angela María) Espinosa Salazar


Research purpose: As a by-product in the development of the Quality Management Systems, self-organized working groups were introduced and became a common practice in management. In the last ten years some authors – influenced by the developments in the study of Complex Systems – have reintroduced the self-organization concept as being the future of management. In this approach, the description of the mechanism driving this process has been explored to provide a method to facilitate the emergence of viable organisational structures and to support such organizational behaviour. This topic becomes more relevant in the present times when the community development is more locally oriented and the communities are being empowered to become more autonomous in the definition of the means and results they want to improve their quality of live. It is within this context that in order to facilitate self-organization processes – in a rural community engaged in a independent regeneration program –this research suggest the use of a model inspired in both cybernetics and the self-organization in a biological system.

Methods: This thesis details the development of a three loops framework aimed to facilitate the self-organizing behaviour through the use of a Visualization - Planning - Reflective toolset (V-P Toolset). The framework was deployed within a case study organization (The XOOP) using an interpretivist philosophy of constructionism to guide the research. During its execution the researcher acted as both an observer and participant of the organisational change. Within the context of an action research project, the framework followed a multimethodology design where cybernetic and social tools of organizational analysis such as the Viable System Model (VSM), Narrative and Story-telling analysis and Social Network Analysis (SNA) provided a unique approach to the facilitation of self-organization and the mergence of viable organizational structures.

Results: The VSM and the SNA were used to diagnose the organizational structure. The information provided by these tools was then contextualized within the Narrative and Story-telling analysis, identifying critical events in the evolution of the organization. This combination of tools provided insights about the self-organizing behaviour of the organization and the mechanism that facilitated (or impeded) the emergence of viable organizational structures throughout the evolution of the observed community.

Conclusions: The introduction of a common language to describe the organization facilitated the endogenous creation of a shared mental model of the community. This representation of the organization made more efficient the exchange of information, the coordination of activities and the autonomous operation of the different working groups. Thus, the iterative loops of the V-P contributed to made this process more efficient and provided evidence about the convenience of the integration of the VSM with the SNA as organizational diagnostic tools.


Cardoso Castro, P. P. (2011). Facilitating self-organization in non-hierarchical communities: a methodology for regeneration programs. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 22, 2011
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Jul 1, 2011


Thesis (23.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2011 Cardoso Castro, Pedro Pablo. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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