Showing Linkages

Talking Points
  • Not separate boxes but web of interconnections
  • Nature provides materials for production
  • Production provides jobs
  • Jobs alleviate poverty
  • Monkey wrench to tweak the system

A community is an intricately connected web. Here is an example of a web for a community that derives part of its support from a forest. The forest provides materials for production, which allows people to have jobs. Jobs help keep people out of poverty. Education improves the skills of workers, further reducing poverty. There is also a link between education and health. Crime can also affect health. People with jobs may enjoy the forest and like hunting for wildlife in the forest.

All these links are like connections in a complex piece of machinery. Sustainability is about understanding the connections and figuring out how to make the machinery run more smoothly. Alan AtKisson, one of the founders of Sustainable Seattle, gives the analogy of using a monkey wrench to adjust the system. He says that the idea is to figure out where in the system a slight tweak with a monkey wrench will have the most positive effect.

For example, crime is an issue in many communities, but solving crime by hiring more police or building more jails may not do as much to improve the sustainability of a community as using the monkey wrench on the "education" or "jobs" parts of the system.

When you draw linkage pictures like this you want to try to identify key linkages. This will help you when you are developing indicators of sustainable communities. For example, for the issue of jobs, although crime and deer population are connected, they are not key to ensuring jobs. For jobs, education and materials for production are key links.

(Note to instructor: This is a good place to do a short interactive session on linkages as follows:

Pick one of the "quality of life" issues that were mentioned in the warm up exercise by several different people and write it in the center of a flip chart page.

Ask participants to name other things on the list that are related to the issue.

Write each item mentioned on the page and draw a line between each item and everything else on the page to which it is connected.

Once you have at least ten items on the page, have the participants identify the key linkages.)
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Copyright © 1998 Maureen Hart. All rights reserved.