Twelve levers

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The twelve levers are an ordered list of ways or "places" or "points" to intervene in a system. They were first compiled by Donella Meadows, who listed them in her article "twelve leverage points to intervene in a system" as:

  • "12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as (subsidies, taxes, standards)
  • "11. The size of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows"
  • "10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport network, population age structures)"
  • "9. The length of delays, relative to the rate of system changes"
  • "8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impact they are trying to correct against"
  • "7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops", e.g. eutrophication of lakes
  • "6. The structure of information flow (who does and does not have access to what kinds of information)"
  • "5. the rules of the system (such as incentives, punishment, constraints)"
  • "4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure"
  • "3. the goal of the system", e.g. electing a good official or getting many better officials in future via process activism
  • "2. the mindset (or paradigm after Kuhn, or exemplar after Foucault) out of which the goals, rules, feedback structure arise."
  • "1. the power to transcend paradigms" [to change one's mind or mindset)

Who's in charge tends to determine the starting point against which the resistance begins, but was not thought by Meadows to be all-important. In her analysis, she cites Jay Forrester as having said that people know quite instinctively where leverage is, and act reliably to resist useful changes. This resistance however collapses by surprise when they realize that they are correct about the leverage but wrong about the direction in which things must change. For instance, most neo-conservatives were former Democrats.

As postmodern politics has evolved, the more powerful levers tend to be pulled more often, leading to troll wars and (some think) a Troll Age, where there is direct psychological warfare and information warfare at all times in all forums. This would occur mostly or only at levels 5, 4, 3, 2.

If any troll, ever, has changed their mind, well, we'd like to hear about that!

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