1. Open Systems A system is a set of interacting elements and relationships forming a complex whole. Living systems, whether cells, ecosystems, gardens, families, or cities, are open systems that adapt and evolve through a continuous exchange of information and energy with their changing environment.
    2. Wholeness, Integrity While open and connected to larger systems, each system is a discrete entity that maintains its own integrity and coherence. It is a whole, which is greater than the sum of its parts. Each part of a system also has its own integrity, which reflects the whole, and is essential to the functioning of the system.
    3. Synergy, Purpose, Emergence, Diversity, Creativity, Evolution – The parts of a living system must all be present and well connected for it to carry out its purpose and to function optimally. This interplay is synergistic, building on the diverse strengths of the parts, and generating emergent properties and new possibilities not predictable from the separate parts. Without serious hindrances to the flows between the parts, this complexity can generate endless creativity.
    4. Nested Systems, Permeable Boundaries A whole system contains systems within it (e.g. the body contains immune systems and bacterial systems) and is nested within larger systems (e.g. we breathe in and eat from our surrounding ecosystems  for our daily sustenance.) These interwoven systems require permeable, flexible, but still coherent boundaries to work well.

    5. Interdependence and Reciprocity – Living systems (and their component parts) are continuously & intimately influencing each other. These interactions may either maintain balance & stability or create disturbance, change and evolution, as All systems are ultimately connected, & at one level, are a whole system.
    6. Self-Organizing, Self-Balancing – Each system has its own inherent tendency to maintain or restore balance, integrity, coherence and purpose in the face of changing conditions. Systems achieve this strength, integrity and self-sufficiency through the interactions, feedback and adjustments that continually circulate among the system’s parts and between the system and its environment.
    7. Negative or Stabilizing Feedback Loops are patterns of information and energy flow that help a system keep to its goals by maintaining equilibrium and optimum functioning. They are Self-Correcting and Balancing, by nature and design.  Note: “Negative Feedback “ in systems talk does not mean harmful, critical or “bad”
    8. Self- Creating, Evolving – Healthy living systems can adapt to persistent change and stress by developing higher levels of complexity and integration.
    9. Positive or Reinforcing Feedback Loops accelerate the change process by compounding it in one direction with even more change in that direction (“snowball effect”). They are Amplifying and Self-Reinforcing; the more they work, the more they continue to induce change.They can be engines of healthy growth, if enough balancing loops are in place, or they can create a “vicious cycle”, “overshoot”, and collapse, if the rate and scale of change is extreme and/or there too few balancing factors.  Healthy systems have stabilizing & amplifying loops that help the system grow in balanced ways.

    10. Multiple Functions, Diversity, Redundancy, Resilience – Members of a healthy system usually serve multiple functions for the whole, which creates greater economy. (e.g. skin protects, excretes, supports hair growth, regulates temperature, etc.) (“Do More with Less” is a key principle of permaculture) At the same time, there is often redundancy of functions in a living system, with different parts able to perform the same function. (e.g., Leaves make food for plants, and many roots provide food that they have  stored)  This creates greater stability and resilience, keeping the system working even if some parts of the system fail. These systems characteristics, multi-functionality, diversity, and redundancy, combined, help explain the highly generative and resilient nature of healthy systems
    11. Closed Loops, Zero Waste, Ecological Design– There are no “messes” to dump, bury, or export in a healthy system. Unspoiled forests or wetlands don’t need garbage trucks or defense departments. All parts have a positive role to play, they feed into each other and “waste” becomes “food”.“Ecological design” mimics this closed loop, zero-waste quality of the natural world. We can design or redesign organizations, production processes, buildings, gardens, and neighborhoods to be so well connected that they create little or no waste. The more optimally they are designed, with relationships that are mutually enhancing, the more chance there is that they can be generators of energy and regenerative forces for the larger systems they are connected to.
    12. Discovering a system’s invisible structures, patterns and relationships, and working with them, can heighten a system’s creativity and long-term resilience. Focusing primarily on  symptom-oriented solutions usually ends up creating more work later on. To discover the source of a problem, you have to step back and widen your focus to include the bigger systems.
    13. Limiting Factors and Leverage Points – Tiny parts, often invisible, can play a huge role in the proper functioning of even large systems (e.g. soil and food micronutrients needed for proper brain and immune system functioning). Locating and doing something about limiting factors that are diminishing the balance and flow of the system can have huge payoffs. Clarifying the leverage points, where small efforts can have large impacts, (e.g. by creating positive feedback loops) is a powerful change strategy that we can develop when we consistently look for patterns and connections within and around a system.