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Into the Heart of Systems Change - Ph.D. Dissertation by Dr. Anneloes Smitsman (Dec 2019 final)

  • EARTHwise Centre


This Ph.D. dissertation presents my research as an external researcher at the Maastricht Sustainability Institute (formerly ICIS), Maastricht University, the Netherlands, from September 2014 to August 2019. "Into the Heart of Systems Change" offers a diagnostic integral framework for addressing key systemic conditions of the sustainability crisis. This framework is based on an exploration of the informational dynamics of healthy living systems, and the extent to which this is harmed and decoupled by mechanistic growth archetypes that are not coherent with the evolutionary process of life. Seven systemic thrivability barriers are diagnosed and explored through the case-study research, and addressed through seven transformation strategies. An essential distinction is made between systemic barriers that emerge from mechanistic growth archetypes that are decoupled from the evolutionary process of life, and systemic boundaries that emerge from the regulation of the interdependencies and evolutionary coherence of living systems. A life-centric qualitative growth model is offered with 5 Future Archetypes through a narrative of thrivability, instead of mere sustainability. Various methods are combined into an integral approach for systemic transformation, weaving together indigenous wisdom, new paradigm cosmology, informational sciences, quantum physics, evolutionary biology, and complexitiy sciences - grounded in the praxis of inner and outer systems change. The case-studies explore the sense of entrapment and degeneration many people experience in mechanistic systems and cultures, as well as the conditions for inner and outer transformation. Providing new perspectives and approaches for addressing the root causes of our sustainability crisis. "Into the Heart of Systems Change" completes with a transition plan for co-creating the conditions for thrivable civilizations. The main research outcomes have since been applied worldwide for the design and governance of new economic and governance systems, such as the EARTHwise Constitution for a Planetary Civilization, the SEEDS Constitution for regenerative economics, and the Hypha DAO. The outcomes also serves as the main inputs for the r3.0 Educational Transformation Blueprint. For more information visit: For a summary overview of the Dissertation visit:
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