The Hidden Power of Systems Thinking: Governance in a Climate Emergency is a persuasive, lively book that shows how systems thinking can be harnessed to effect profound, complex change.

In the age of the Anthropocene, the need for new ways of thinking and acting has become urgent. But patterns of obstacles are apparent in any action, be they corporate interests, lobbyists, or outdated political and government systems. Ison and Straw show how and why failure in governance is at the heart of the collective incapacity to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies. They go beyond analysis of the problem and demonstrate how incorporating systems thinking into governance at every level would enable us to break free of historical shackles. They propose 26 principles for systemic governance.

This book will be inspiring reading for students applying their systemic methods, specialists in change management or public administration, activists for ‘whole system change’ and decision makers wanting to effect challenging transformations. It is for anyone with the ambition to create a sustainable and fair world.



chapter 1|18 pages


Crafting a viable future?

part Part 1|74 pages

The failure of governance and governments

chapter 2|38 pages

Why governance systems are failing

chapter 3|19 pages

Preferential lobbying and emergent failure

chapter 4|15 pages

What is missing from governance models?

part Part 2|44 pages

What is systems thinking in practice?

part Part 3|128 pages

Using systems thinking in practice for governing

chapter 7|29 pages

Reinventing governance systems

chapter 9|14 pages

Why and how constitutions matter

chapter 10|24 pages

Making beneficial change

chapter 11|19 pages

Principles for systemic governing

chapter 12|12 pages

What next?