An investigation into the effectiveness of systems thinking approach in illuminating understanding of poverty as a complex situation : a South African case study.
Ntiisa, J. K.
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We are living in a world where academics and politicians seek to define the problem of poverty and where a range of policies and programmes have been introduced in response to one or other version of the problem. Over the years, academics , politicians , sociologists, economists and anthropologists have not come to an agreement on what poverty is or what should be done about it. They often talk about cross-purposes, the size and the seriousness of the problem. However, they agree on one thing: that poverty, wherever it exists, is a complex problem that requires sustainable and integrated policy responses . Research of poverty in South Africa has traditionally been divided into a threestage process: facts, causes and strategies. It is no longer acceptable to confine poverty research to only collecting data or analysing causes. Research should focus on finding ways and initiating programmes to prevent and cure the symptoms. The poor must be uplifted from their situation and have hope in the future. This research adopts a different approach altogether. It draws on the theory of Systems Thinking to illuminate understanding of the different aspects of poverty in a holistic and integrated manner. A South African example is presented, which clearly shows the interrelationships between government departments and the gaps of the present poverty alleviation and eradication policies and programmes. It argues that for poverty to be understood and for proper measures to be put in place, one must understand the dynamics surrounding poverty, as well as the interconnections between them.