Leverage points: places to intervene in a system

Donella Meadows
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A classic reference for those seeking to implement change.

To counter her frustration at a global-trade conference Donella Meadows proposed a list of places to intervene in a system. The list, elaborated in this article, has proven influential to leaders across the globe.

Meadows started with the observation that there are levers, or places, within a complex system (such as a firm, a city, an economy) where a ‘small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything’. She claimed we not only need to realise the existence of these shifts (or leverage points) but also to know where they are and how to use them. According to her, most people know where these points are instinctively, but tend to adjust them in the wrong direction.

The understanding of these leverage points would be powerful information to solve major global problems such as unemployment, hunger, pollution, resources depletion and conservation issues.