• Gerald Midgley Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, UK.


community operational research, conflict, critical systems thinking, natural resource management, problem structuring methods


Value conflicts can become entrenched in a destructive pattern of mutual stigmatization, which inhibits the emergence of new understandings of the situation and actions for improvement. In extreme cases, such patterns can even lead to violence. This paper offers a new systems theory of value conflict, which suggests the possibility of three different strategies for intervention using problem structuring methods: supporting people in transcending overly narrow value judgements about what is important to them; seeking to widen people’s boundaries of the issues that they consider relevant; and attempting to challenge stereotyping and stigmatization by building better mutual understanding. Each of these three strategies is illustrated with practical examples from operational research projects on natural resource management in New Zealand.

Author Biography

Gerald Midgley, Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, UK.

Gerald Midgley is Professor of Systems Thinking in the Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, UK. He also holds Adjunct Professorships at Mälardalen University, Sweden; the University of Queensland, Australia; the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He was Director of the Centre for Systems Studies at Hull from 1997 to 2003 and from 2010 to 2014. From 2003 to 2010, he was a Senior Science Leader in the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), New Zealand. Gerald has had over 300 papers on systems thinking, problem structuring methods, community operational research and conflict management published in international journals, edited books and practitioner magazines, and has been involved in a wide variety of public sector, community development, technology foresight, sustainability and resource management projects. He was the 2013/14 President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, and has written or edited 11 books including, Systemic Intervention: Philosophy, Methodology, and Practice (Kluwer, 2000); Operational Research and Environmental Management: A New Agenda (Operational Research Society, 2001); Systems Thinking, Volumes I-IV (Sage, 2003); Community Operational Research: OR and Systems Thinking for Community Development (Kluwer, 2004); and Forensic DNA Evidence on Trial: Science and Uncertainty in the Courtroom (Emergent, 2011).



How to Cite

Midgley, G. (2019). MOVING BEYOND VALUE CONFLICTS: SYSTEMIC PROBLEM STRUCTURING IN ACTION. Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2017 Vienna, Austria, 2017(1). Retrieved from