Viability of complex systems
System viability is a central concept within the SHES mission, and viability assessment is a critical component within the SHES framework for social learning. Assessing the viability of systems however requires a holistic understanding of the concept itself as it is situated within the greater body of systems theory. This chapter describes and expands upon the frameworks set out by Checkland and Scholes, Beer, and Giampietro and Mayumi by discussing the concept of viability in relation to feasibility and desirability. “Viability” as cited in this book is shorthand for all three properties. To discuss these, we refer to concepts from cybernetics, ecological economics, relational theory, and hierarchy theory to demonstrate that holistic viability assessment must (i) assess the internal functional processes of a system; (ii) assess the system’s relationship with its environment, and; (iii) integrate a plurality of perspectives and objectives. This chapter concludes with a set of principles and practices for viability assessment.