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Quarterly Meetup with Dave & Friends: Affordances

June 15, 2023 -  
02:0003:00  p.m.
Time Zone: UTC


This Meetup was triggered by a post in Our Haunt by Gareth Evans:

Hi all, I’m looking for some good examples of affordances in health care – what they are and how you might use them in work with teams and services? I get the concept but need a couple of practical examples or applications to move this from ‘interesting idea’ to ‘useable in practice’.

We want to open this conversation with Dave, Gareth & Ellie to all our members, and create a space where we can benefit from cross-fertilization between different domains and application areas. Hope you will join us to learn from and with each other about affordances.


Affordances is part of the 3As typology – Assemblages, Affordances and Agency. In this Meetup we’ll explore these 3As in the context of Estuarine Mapping, and how we can do with these in practical and tangible ways. With the 3A’s we have a perspective that helps us to see the options for generative structuring for change in a system, and to share and discuss real-world examples to make these concepts practical. The three perspectives are:

  • Agency. Who or what can make decisions or has the freedom to act and to what degree?
  • Affordance. What opportunities are provided or inhibited by the ecosystem of which an individual or a group (it is mainly the latter) is a part
  • Assemblage. What are the patterns of belief and understanding that act as constraints on behaviour, that act as attractor wells from which it may be difficult to escape?


Some pointers to consider –

  • How can we use this concept of Affordances to help people to make useful changes within the context of a set of challenges?
  • How can our understanding of affordances help us to work with teams and to ‘start where they are’?
  • What about coherence and messiness when working with the concept of affordances?
  • How can we include and/or work with Affordances on the Estuarine Map?

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About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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