Agricultural and extension educators are frequently called upon to intervene in situations where solutions to problems are complex, subjective, and often impossible to achieve. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is commonly considered to be an intervention methodology to use in situations where the problem is poorly-defined, controversial, or ‘messy.’ SSM is used to help ensure that the people component remains a central element of the program development and problem solving process, and is key to develop agreement on issues such as the nature of the problem, and the definition of an improved situation. The authors discuss SSM educational importance and applications for agricultural and extension educators, and present the seven stages of SSM as described by Checkland (1981): 1. Inquire into the situation (real world); 2. Describe the situation (real world); 3. Define Human Activity Systems (HAS) (systems thinking); 4. Conceptual modeling (systems thinking); 5. Compare conceptual model with real world; 6. Debate desirable and feasible change (real world); and 7. Implementation (real world).

Keywords: Soft Systems Methodology, Program Development, Problem Solving, Human Activity Systems, Complexity, Systems Thinking


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