Author Archives: Sjon van ’t Hof

About Sjon van ’t Hof

Development professional who worked in rural development, tropical agriculture, and irrigation development in Chad, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Mauritania, Israel, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Netherlands in capacities ranging from project design and management to information management. Conducted missions to India, China, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Experience in the development and delivery of trainings in irrigation equipment selection, information literacy, Internet searching and database searching. Explores systems thinking in relation to international development, education, and management, with an ever stronger focus on the systems approach of C. West Churchman. Knowledgeable in tropical agriculture, project design and development economics, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, plant pathology, environmental degradation and protection, rural development. Co-authored "Wicked Solutions: a systems approach to complex problems", a book written by Bob Williams and Sjon van 't Hof. It was published in June 2014 and provides a practical way of dealing with wicked problems. Wicked problems are complex, ill-structured, human problem situations. This book will help you design an inquiry and intervention in such messy, wicked situations. It does so by guiding you through the steps and stages of a systemic process that addresses your own wicked problem. For more information, see or

Real objectives, value and the systems approach

Client-purpose relationships, unfolding, evaluation and systemic agency It’s always wise to raise questions about the most obvious and simple assumptions. (Churchman, 1968: ix) What proof exists of any real, actual value added by the systems approach? At the beginning of … Continue reading

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Systems approach as teleological concordance

A complete concise understanding of the systems approach When I started this blog (CSL4D, i.e. Concept & Systems Learning for Design) almost 5 years ago (January 8, 2012), I had just discovered concept mapping as a great learning tool. At … Continue reading

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From efficacy to efficiency to effectiveness

Four approaches and two meanings of ‘approach’ When I first read Churchman’s ‘The systems approach’ I was missing a bit of structure to let everything fall into place. I went on to read more of his books and other systems … Continue reading

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Solving the wrong problem precisely

“A problem well put is half solved.” Dewey, 1938 In 1998, Ian Mitroff adapted an article from his book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times, which dealt with preventing misdirected thinking, or the time, talent, and resource drains that result from … Continue reading

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Constructive journalism

… and how it could benefit from the systems approach This morning (Dec. 2, 2016), the somewhat sceptical article on constructive journalism by Adri Vermaat in Trouw (a Dutch newspaper, article not free) triggered me to write this post. We live in a … Continue reading

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The pure land of a(nti)teleology

Reversing the table on rationality, again and again Reading Churchman is like riding a conceptual rollercoaster. He never shies away from looking at things from totally different angles, opposites in particular, and not just occasionally but in quick succession, again … Continue reading

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Philosophic inquiring systems

The foundations of the systems approach Churchman (1971, p. 17-18) suggests that “.. we can regard the history of epistemology [..] as a description of how learning can be designed and how the design can be justified. This way of … Continue reading

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