Systems Thinking

Donella Meadows defines a system as “an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something… A system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections and a function or purpose” (Meadows, 11).

Elements are the individual parts of a system which tend to be more visible and easy to recognize.

Interconnections are the relationships that hold the elements of a system together or describes how elements work together to achieve the systems function/purpose.

Function or Purpose is determined based on the systems behavior.


Meadows, Donella H. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Explore Systems Thinking [n.d]. Center for Ecoliteracy. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from