Sunday, September 2, 2007

Leverage Points

I read the chapter on “Leverage Point.” Leverage points are defined as small actions that bring on large systemic changes. The authors based this on several different examples of leverage points and how in each example, a small action created a larger change. This is a key point of the systems approach and shows how even a small perturbation in a system can create large feedback and significantly alter the system.

Her first example was called the “magic formula”. Her magic formula is based on the idea that once a movement is started in a single community it will spread like wild fire. This is similar to the domino theory where a small action could prove to be the start of a large movement. It supports the idea that a small grass-roots effort can grow to national attention

The next example is called the “silver bullet” approach. This method is based on the idea that a problem should be addressed at the source, not at the result. By doing so, far more issues can be avoided in the future. She uses the example of improving energy conservation and energy efficiency to fight the need for additional energy production.

Her third example is based off the Ben Franklin quote of “a stitch in time saves nine.” By addressing a problem early, the hope is that any trouble that the initial problem would have created would be removed and the problem could be eliminated before it could spread to something larger. This is a critical way to prevent large problems in the future with little effort.

Her final main point is called a “wrench in the works.” She bases this point on the idea of preventing “band-aid” solutions. Problems are often fixed with the quickest and easiest solution. These solutions make it seem like the problem has been taken care of while it is really secretly spreading out of control. The wrench in the works method relies on getting past the masks and showing where the problem really lies thus giving it attention and truly getting it fixed.

This last point brings up the idea that coverage is pivotal to having a leverage point. Only through the media, she says, can these small actions get the attention needed to create large scale change. An example of this could be seen in the environmental movement of the 70’s where citizens would bring very serious but often ignored problems to national attention, creating monumental environmental changes and laws that were revolutionary for their time. All of these points show how small actions are essential for the creation of large scale change and all can be accomplished through the simple use of leverage points.

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