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Is It A Bird? Is It Plane? No, It’s Children’s Commissioning As A Complex System

Is it a bird? Is it plane? No, it’s children’s commissioning as a complex system

Murmuration. Winter twilight is the best time of year to see murmurations of starlings  coming in to roost. We stand and stare with amazement.

Starlings at sunset. It a metaphor to understand children’s commissioning. Over the years we have repeated the same simple solutions in varied formats. To no avail, nothing changes. How is it that year after year the same content is published in reports are met with annually recycled quotes in response to them?

Supposing the Care Review, the CMA report seek to provide a way too simple solution, with regional care cooperatives the latest in a long string stretching back to the Commissioning Support Programme.

How to understand what is happening? You have to start somewhere.

Let’s take the starlings as both a phenomenon and a metaphor.

Most of us experiencing a murmuration appreciate it is complex. We know there is no boss bird, no top-down instructions. Starlings take cues from their neighbours. There is no other way other than all sorts of cues happening all at once. Starlings have to be highly attuned, they all have to know what is going on and how to do it.

Turns out starlings and commissioners are quantum physicists using both the field theory of ‘high energy’ physics and of ‘condensed matter’, the mechanics of disordered materials.

We are witnessing an example of complexity out of simple individual interactions.

We can explain what is happening using quantum physics concepts. Let’s take two.

‘Spin glasses’ – atoms in magnets want to line up, or oppose. Like brokerage and procurement you can’t keep all participants happy at the same time. There is a complicated landscape of many states, even when energy is low. Change in states happens gradually, solids become glassy, like liquid.

Order parameters are when the level when something changes from a solid to liquid, to gas in response to temperature or pressure.

Maybe for years we have been misunderstanding

  • How we think and how we think we think.
  • How we do is different to what we are doing.

Giorgio Parisa, a quantum physicist, (recent book In a flight of starlings – the wonder of complex systems) gives a description to our actions.

A friend asked me a not very easy question to which I immediately gave a detailed answer. Then he asked me how I had arrived at it.

At first I gave a completely nonsensical explanation, then a second with a bit more sense, and only on the third attempt was I able to properly justify the right answer, which I had given at first given for the wrong reasons.