Covid-19: the disconnects exposed and good things to keep

Three overwhelming global disasters are facing us – climate change, the Coronavirus pandemic, and unknown, transformative socio- economic changes in the Coronavirus aftermath.  Some of these socio-economic changes, like the reduction in air travel, if sustained, will have positive effects in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Other socio-economic effects we see emerging are increases in awareness in the understanding of the importance of social functions – like universal health care and social insurance. Indeed, the Coronavirus may have us rediscovering other values, clearly seeing social dysfunctions that were previously covered by the general hustle and bustle of daily life.

This essay looks at the current economic system as a whole, where most of its constituent parts are the invention of man. If man invented it and it is not working, the good news is that man can fix it. Maybe now is the time!

Interestingly, when you create systems of even a few interacting parts all intereacting with each other, you get a complex system. The behaviour of complex systems is intrinsically difficult to model due to the dependencies, competitions, relationships, or other types of interactions between their parts or between a given system and its environment. Systems thinking takes a holistic approach and focuses on the way a system’s constituent parts interrelate. The systems thinking approach contrasts with traditional analysis, which studies systems by breaking them down into their separate elements.

In this case we take a helicopter view of our society as a system. By stepping back and looking holistically we may be able to better understand how to move forward after Covid-19.

I am working together with colleagues from the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation to take time during this Coronavirus situation to try to identify the major systemic disconnects that the pandemic is laying clear.

In order to do this, we are taking a helicopter view of our social system and mapping the flow of:

  • Materials
  • Work
  • Money

These flows are between the major components of society:

  • Government
  • Municipality, Local Government
  • Corporations
  • Citizens
  • Natural Biological, Living Capital
  • Natural Mineral Capital

Putting this together we get a complex system of 3 flows, 6 components and 21 key interactions

Just now we are doing the mapping. Here is a system part and flow view showing the 21 interactions.

Click to enlarge

When we load the information up into a system analysis application like we get the following

Click to enlarge

From this analysis we expect to be able to identify major disconnects in the system that impair performance compared to desired outcome.

The desired outcome is expressed in broad terms by the Sustainable Development Goals – stewarding natural capital whilst providing for Earth citizens’ needs.

No one left behind, everyone is:

  • Provided with food and water
  • Housed
  • Protected
  • Included
  • Provided with Health care

We aim to start by constructing a table and taxonomy of main disconnects as in the example below.

2: Citizens work for firmsPandemic results in loss of jobs.With no money coming in, workers cannot buy goods and downward economic cycle ensues.
17: Firms provide health careThose who cannot buy health care go around infecting others.
Firms have little incentive to stock up on essentials for pandemic and are unable to privde care in epidemic emergencies.
19 &20: Firms activities return material to to EarthThe need to make profit and stay competitive means firms’ influence on the environment tends to remain affordable for them and just above legal limits.Reduction in demand shows marked decrease in pollution around the world

If you would like to comment, please use the comment facility below. If you woudl like to join us, we are looking for volunteers to join our team, drop us a line via the contact pages on


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