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Complexity management in practice : a Viable System Model intervention in an Irish eco-community

Espinosa, Angela; Walker, J


Angela Espinosa

J Walker


While soft OR tools offer specific solutions to manage complexity in organisations, little is known concerning soft OR tools to deal with self-organisation in communities. This paper describes an action research project where the authors facilitated a process of self-organisation in a developing Irish eco-community whose members operate in a non-hierarchical, and cooperative fashion. We used the Viable System Model as a hermeneutical enabler of the community learning process concerning their self-organisation: by embedding VSM distinctions, they redesigned their primary tasks and developed meta-systemic management tools to deal with the complexity they were facing. Observations of the dynamics of the self-organising process over a period of 3 years show the community designed their roles and tasks more effectively, improved the connectivity of roles, and in general, their viability and sustainability. We reflect on the distinctiveness of the methods used, and their contributions to research in soft OR in community projects.


Espinosa, A., & Walker, J. (2013). Complexity management in practice : a Viable System Model intervention in an Irish eco-community. European journal of operational research, 225(1), 118-129.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 7, 2012
Online Publication Date Sep 26, 2012
Publication Date Feb 16, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal European Journal Of Operational Research
Print ISSN 0377-2217
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 225
Issue 1
Pages 118-129
Keywords OR in society problem analysis, PSM, Viable System Model, Complexity management, Community OR,
Public URL
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