The GHH framework has been developed in the Kudelma network for researchers, teachers, students, and other learners, as a tool for studying and understanding complex phenomena. It is a conceptual framework that is largely driven by systemic thinking, and it is based on three key dimensions of thinking: generalism, holism and holarkism. The following description is taken from Willamo et al. 2017 and 2018, and from Holmström 2019 for the part of holarchism.
Generalism refers to the broad examination of reality – there are always multiple perspectives and aspects to things. It is useful to distinguish two dimensions of generalism: object generalism refers to the inclusion of multiple objects under examination, such as extending waste recycling campaign in schools to water recycling as well. Whereas viewpoint generalism means that a single object is observed from multiple perspectives, for example from many different disciplines. Generally, the term specialism is often used as an antonym for generalism.
Holism refers to the way of thinking where interactions between phenomena are considered as important determinants of the overall nature of the systems as the components of the systems: things affect each other! Due to these interactions new kinds of features occur, and as a result the whole is more than just a sum of its parts (emergence). There are several concepts used as antonyms for holism: e.g., reductionism, merism, and atomism.
Holarchism as a term has been developed during the evolution of the GHH framework by the ideas of Charlotta Holmström (2019), based on the conceptual system created by Arthur Koestler (eg 1970). Holarchism refers to an approach where systems should be perceived as emergent, hierarchically layered structures. It is not not reasonable to assume all systems to be same frequency, magnitude or them to have the same degree of complexity. Hierarchy differs from the concept of holarchy, created by Koestler (eg. 1970), which is a hierarchy where each element (holon) is at the same time part of a larger whole and a whole itself that can be divided into smaller entities at a lower level of the system. As an antonym for holarchism we use the term planism, which we have derived from the Latin word planus (flat). In a “planistic” approach, all objects are viewed as existing at the same systemic level.
Thus, with the concept of holarchism, we broaden the perspective of holism, emphasizing that there are also interactions between parts and wholes that are part of the nature of both. Holarchism is a hierarchy that combines the idea of generalism and holism: there are lots of elements and interactions between them that cause emergence. Thus, the higher-level entity is something else than just the sum of the lower-level parts, and the entity is considered to function at least partially under different laws than its parts. These changes in complexity occur when crossing the complexity threshold.
Needless to say, the GHH framework is not ready yet, but requires continuous development. One important development stage is to add the temporal dimension to the framework, since now the framework is fairly static in nature. Also, the concept of the complexity threshold requires clarification: what happens to complexity when moving from top to bottom, or horizontally to the side of the holarchic system? Analyzing these questions will play an important role in Essi Huotari's forthcoming doctoral dissertation.
Holmström, C. 2019. Multi-level wickedness –holarchism as a tool for dealing with complex sustainability issues. [In Finnish.] Master’s Thesis. Environmental Science and Policy. University of Helsinki.
Koestler, A. 1970. Beyond Atomism and Holism - the concept of Holon. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 13(2): 131-154.
Willamo, R., Helenius, L., Holmström, C., Haapanen, L., Huotari, E., Sandström, V., 2017a. How to understand complex phenomena? Generalism, Holism and Holarchism in Comprehensive Sustainability Education. [In Finnish.] Kasvatus 48(5): 415–428.
Willamo, R., Helenius, L., Holmström, C., Haapanen, L., Sandström, V., Huotari, E., Kaarre, K., Värre, U., Nuotiomäki, A., Happonen, J. & Kolehmainen, L., 2018: Learning how to understand complexity and deal with sustainability challenges – a framework for a comprehensive approach and its application in university education. Ecological modelling. 370: 1-13. (Special issue on teaching systems and modelling.)
Huutoniemi, K. & Willamo, R. 2014. Thinking outward. Heuristics for systemic understanding of environmental problems. Huutoniemi, K. & Tapio, P. (toim.) In a book Transdisciplinary sustainability studies. A heuristic approach. London: Routledge, 23–49.
Willamo, R., 2005. Comprehensive Approach in Environmental Science and Policy: Complexity as a Challenge for Environmentalists [In Finnish.] Environmentalica Fennica 23. Yliopistopaino, Helsinki.