Food activists desire more farmers markets as a way to eventually revolutionize the food system. They get the state to pass a law that provides modest start-up incentives. Using the incentive, local activists create a farmers market in their town. It requires sellers to be producers of what they sell and the location of production must be within a 25 mile radius of the market. The farmers market draws some customers away from the local upscale supermarket. The supermarket, invoking the unwritten law of the economy – power to the powerful – invests some of its preponderant capital resources to add a bountiful and attractive organic foods section to its produce section. Most of its organic produce travels thousands of miles to the supermarket. Part of the clientele lost to the farmers market returns to the upscale supermarket. The farmers market grows slowly, but remains mired in a system that relegates it to minor player status in the food economy.
Fig. 1 presents a Causal Loop Diagram for this story. The best of intentions to promote Farmers Markets, the Balancing Loop, is eventually overcome by the Reinforcing Loop resulting from the influence of the unwritten rules.
Fig. 2 presents the same Causal Loop Diagram with the labels changed. The structure actually represents a Fixes that Fail Systems Archetype which is a highly recurring structure.
- Don't fight the system; change the rules and the system will change itself.
- Create a Model provides guidelines on asking the right questions to ferret out implications of actions.
- Provided by: Karl North Northland Sheep Dairy, Freetown, New York USA 11.23.09
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Systems Thinking World Q&A * Gene Bellinger