On This Page:
- Introducing Systems and Solution Frameworks
- Stages of Problem Severity for Organizational Repair
- Addressing Specific System Elements or Domains
This page reviews key contours of what systems and systemic abuse are. The first four subpages in this section give examples of dealing with particular degrees of difficult systemic problems. The last five subpages give examples for problems in specific elements of a system (such as in its products) or in the extent of the problem in a specific domain (such as smaller scale in an organization, to far larger scale in an entire society or even a transnational paradigm).
One purpose for doing comparative case studies is to find and/or apply sets of indicators that help us identify problems and work toward practical solutions. So, depending on the topic, I may provide cases that embody the destructive side of the issue, cases that embody (re)constructive ways of addressing that stage of needed repair work or specific problem to address, or both kinds.
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Introducing Systems and Solution Frameworks
Several years ago I wrote an extensive case study. The overall focus was a particular Christian celebrity pastor whose actions, sadly, embodied multiple forms of accountability avoidance and subverting the very systems that were designed to help him in a repentance/rehabilitation process. The majority of that case study remains unpublished, but I published its opening section — “Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Repentance as a Systems Transformation Process” — as two posts on this blog:
Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 1. Includes my definitions of systems and systemic abuse, and covers basics of systems and how to transform a corrupted system. It uses the movie Spotlight as an example of research for identifying system problems needing repair.
Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 2. Concludes the introductory exploration of how to transform a corrupted system, and summarizes three examples of dealing constructively with specific elements or scales of systemic problems. (Those examples are expanded upon in this section’s subpages.)
Please read those two posts before digging into the case studies in this section.
Many of the examples I present in this section come from faith-based situations and settings, such as Christian publishers, churches, and non-profits. This is because most of my non-profit work since the 1970s has been in various kinds of faith-based organizations. The examples I write about are usually from personal experience or from interviews with people I know. In such cases, I had access to direct observations of what happened and could supplement and confirm details through other forms of research.
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Stages of Problem Severity for Organizational Repair
4-1. Stage 1: Repair – Sustaining Hope and Help
4-2. Stage 2: Renovate – Hope is on the Line
4-3. Stage 3. Reclaim – Hope in Definite Jeopardy
4-4. Stage 4. Raze – When Hope Fades or Fails
The series of brief case studies in these four subpages focus on exploring the landscape contours of Stages 1 through 4, in groups or organizations that need to deal with toxic systems. They also illustrate issues at the borders between Stages, especially when it comes to hope. That is because
Hope is an indicator of our orientation toward the future.
False hope keeps us in orbit around the ways things have been, often based on people’s unsubstantiated promises of change.
True hope motivates us onward in a trajectory of transformation — at least personal and perhaps societal.
We can always adjust our own sense of soul/spiritual freedom, even if our personal circumstances and surrounding society hold us back in many ways.
Some of these cases ended well, with positive movement in rebuilding. Others just ended – generally badly and leaving the damages unaddressed. A few of these are situations I myself was involved with, while others are ones I know of from research and interviews. I selected a range of situations and variety of outcomes, and told these tales as accurately as I can recall them, plus in some instances altered a few details to protect the identities of those involved. The key thing is this:
I purposely selected this set and the specific order in which they appear, to create a series that starts relatively simple and gets increasingly more complex. Hopefully that helps you work your way up gradually to whatever level of complicated systemic situation you find yourself in.
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Systems are a specific set of seven parts—people, principles (beliefs), practices (values and actions), partnerships, processes, products (tangible items or intangible goals), and impacts (personal, social, organizational)—that are all interconnected and function as a unit within some kind of boundaries (one organization, or an entire industry, as examples).
Systems are about how the parts in a set interconnect and make the whole more than the sum of those parts. And systemic abuse happens when people with self-serving motives or otherwise malignant intentions (1) use their power, prestige, relationships, and/or money to manipulate parts to take over the whole and (2) manipulate connections among parts to keep the whole under control.
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Addressing Specific System Elements or Domains
4-5. Product/Plagiarism. Eerdmans Publishing Deals with Plagiarism: A Project/Product with Individual and Institutional Impact
4-6. Organization/Systemic Sexual Abuse and Harassment. The Holistic, Systems Example of the Mennonites: Dealing with Sexual Harassment and Abuse by Top Denominational Theologian, John Howard Yoder
4-8. Society/Historic Oppression. A Social-Cultural-Political System Example: Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Post-Apartheid South Africa
4-9. Paradigm/Fatally Flawed Ideology. Undergoing a Radical Paradigm/Culture Shift.