Systems thinking in Costa Rica

Systems thinking in Costa Rica

In 2015, several members of the Academy for Systems Change came together in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica to develop a collective financing strategy that would support the overall health of the Peninsula ecosystem, community, and economy.

I received a deep calling from the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica to help protect its rainforest and marine ecosystem in a way that would also support the local communities and indigenous population. I especially wanted to explore how to bring the indigenous voice into the multi-stakeholder dialogues and work towards creating an on the ground model of humans living in balance with the natural world.  I also wanted to explore how to lead from deep personal, collective, and earth-based awareness in order to steward and design new systems that are in alignment with nature and supportive of life on the planet —- Jennifer Menke, Academy Member and Graduate of the Academy Fellowship Program


The team for the Osa Project was formed when Jennifer Menke, Joe Hsueh and Todd Khozein came together as part of the Academy Fellowship Program in 2014.

My fellowship with the Academy allowed me to see the necessity of doing an in depth systems analysis of the Osa Peninsula prior to creating a systems financing plan.

The first step for the team was to thoroughly understand the systems dynamics of the region and the collective stakeholder vision. In 2016, Jennifer and her team worked with over 100 local and national government officials, foundations, community leaders, and other multi stakeholder group to develop a comprehensive systems analysis and systems map for a regenerative blue/green economy for the area.  This map lays out a pathway that empowers the local community and government in actualizing their vision of a blue/green economy that is strengthened by and positively reinforces the overall health and well being of the local people, culture, and environment. This map is the most comprehensive systems analysis of the Osa Peninsula and the only systems map that has ever been done. It is now being stewarded by the Osa Territory Council and used as a communication tool by two government offices  and local community groups.

Most importantly, this map is being used as a convening tool to bring people together around a shared vision and understanding. Whereas the common approach to this type of work is to carry out lots of research and enter the area with an idea of what was needed, Jennifer and her team went into the field with no agenda. They were even willing to throw out the idea of a systems financing plan if that wasn’t what the people living in the area felt was needed.

We also went in deeply listening not only to the people, but to the earth.  We remained open to what wanted to emerge from this ecosystem and community, which allowed us to be more present and aware in order for our next steps to be informed. Basically we utilized deep sensing (intuition) coupled with information to guide our actions.

The project continues to build momentum and Jennifer credits much of her team’s success to the Academy for Systems Change.

Being part of the Academy has greatly contributed to my own growth in the field of systems change and personal development.  I’m not sure where I would be without the support and mentorship of the Academy for Systems Change —- Jennifer Menke

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