Can Systems Thinking Become “The Way We Do Things?”; Comment on “What Can Policy-Makers Get Out of Systems Thinking? Policy Partners’ Experiences of a Systems-Focused Research Collaboration in Preventive Health”

Document Type : Commentary


1 Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2 Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

3 University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada


In “What Can Policy-Makers Get Out of Systems Thinking? Policy Partners’ Experiences of a Systems-Focused Research Collaboration in Preventive Health,” Haynes et al glean two important insights from the policy-makers they interview. First: active promotion of systems thinking may work against its champions. Haynes and colleagues’ findings support a backgrounding of systems thinking; more important for policy-makers than understanding the finer details of systems thinking is working in situations of mutual learning and shared expertise. Second: coproduction may be getting short shrift in prevention research. Most participant comments were not about systems thinking, but about the benefits of working across sectors. Operationalizing the ‘co’ in co-production is not easy, but it may be where the pay-off will be for prevention researchers, who must understand the critical success factors of co-production and its potential pitfalls, to capitalize on its significant opportunities.


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