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From One Seed to a Fully Fledged Forest

One of my favorite ways to explain systems thinking comes from Barry Richmond (1994): “People embracing Systems Thinking position themselves such that they can see both the forest and the trees.” To stay with that analogy: Compass Education planted a seed in my mind in 2019. Over the course of the next few years, that seed has grown into a full-fledged forest and equipped me to still see the trees. In this post, I will share my journey from discovering systems thinking to how it has reshaped my understanding of two of the world’s most pressing issues.

When I first joined the Compass Education Level 1: Practitioner workshop, a new world opened up for me. The introduction to systems thinking as a lens to look at the world around us, and to explore problems or phenomenons from different vantage points and with attention to their connections just seemed to make so much sense. Not only did I feel more empowered to think about big topics and address them in my classroom practice, I also felt more understood as a person. I was learning a language that I had wanted to speak for a long time.

Shortly after this workshop, my career took a turn, shifting from classroom teaching to teacher professional development with an international NGO. Needless to say, systems thinking remained an incredibly useful skill to look at our programs and trajectories from different angles and consider their effects and feedback loops. It provided me with a framework, and again, a language to talk about concepts and ideas that are often theoretical. It helped to turn the conceptual into something more tangible, practical. 

While working in my new job, I kept being confronted with “big picture problems”. There is a global education crisis unfolding before our eyes. Simultaneously, the climate crisis is looming and dooming over our heads. But, as Einstein allegedly said, we can’t really solve our problems with the same way of thinking that created it. Enter ‘systems thinking’, again. I started a Master’s Degree in Education Entrepreneurship and wrote my master’s thesis on exploring the interconnectedness between the global education crisis and the climate crisis, using systems thinking as a lens.

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Just like Compass Education focuses on actionability, I aimed to go beyond the theoretical and conceptual stages in this thesis. The resulting systems map that sprung out of the thesis leads the user to thirty-six potential leverage points, where interventions in these areas would not only positively affect the global education crisis, but also contribute to addressing the climate crisis. Admittedly, it still sounds ambitious and grand. But one thing I’ve learned about leverage points is that small shifts in one thing can produce big changes in everything

If you are triggered by these ideas, please feel free to reach out. I am eager to put this work to the test. Not only does that create an opportunity for meaningful change, it also serves as a powerful testament to the transformative power of systems thinking in navigating our world’s challenges. Together, we can turn these insights into actions that not only mitigate crises but also pave the way for a more sustainable and hopeful future.


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Koen Verrecht

Koen Verrecht is a progressive education specialist, dedicated to fostering sustainability and holistic learning. Holding a Master's in Education Entrepreneurship and a Bachelor's in Primary Education, Koen's strategic approach amplifies innovative practices. As a Strategic Education Advisor, he shaped nationwide teacher professional development programs, seamlessly integrating international innovations and student-centered teaching methodologies. His history as a Master Trainer and as a Classroom Teacher in various education systems underscores his commitment to holistic education. Koen's dynamic contributions extend beyond formal education into other sectors, showcasing his dedication to shaping a better world through sustainable, forward-looking education. Connect on LinkedIn:

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