A systemic inquiry to understand the background of, and to design a system to, improve Climate Change Reporting at DBS Radio in Dominica.

A systemic inquiry to understand the background of, and to, improve Climate Change reporting

This project report proposes a comprehensive strategy to intervene in what, Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director, and Science Advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) have identified as, the need for Caribbean governments to “disseminate information on climate change initiatives” (Jamaica-gleaner.com. 2018) He made these remarks as a speaker at the Caribbean Broadcasting Union’s (CBU) 49th Annual General Assembly held in Jamaica in August 2018.

In my report, using systemic approaches introduced in TU811-Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change, I will look at the reasons why he had to issue such a statement, and what effect is the lack of such communication is having on the region.

I will look more specifically at how DBS Radio, the national broadcaster in the Commonwealth of Dominica, one of several Caribbean nations that suffered devastation from two hurricanes that ripped through the region last September leaving a trail of devastation, can equip its Newsroom and on-air personnel with the requisite skills and mindset, to interpret and communicate all aspects of reporting on Climate Change issues.

I will conclude my report with a summary of my findings, and suggestions on how this state of affairs may be improved with the view of forwarding my concerns to relevant stakeholders.





1.0 Introduction

1.1 Area of Practice

At the time of writing, September 29, 2018, Tropical Storm kirk, the 11th named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane season, prompted the Hurricane Centre to issue hurricane warnings and watches for the windward islands on Wednesday and Thursday (Nhc.noaa.gov 2018). Kirk caused major flooding in Barbados (Telesurtv.net. 2018). Meanwhile, on Friday, September 28th, two earthquakes were felt in several Caribbean islands. According to (Dominicanewsonline.com. 2018), the UWI Seismic Research Centre, announced that a magnitude 5.6 and a 4.2 were felt 8:32 and 9:32, an hour apart, even as Tropical Storm Kirk was passing over the lesser Antilles into the Caribbean sea.

For the purposes of this End-of-module submission, My Area of practice (AoP) is Disaster Management. (Ifrc.org 2018) defines disaster management as the practice of a designating an organisation to prepare, respond and recover from disasters, while managing the resources, and other humanitarian responses to carry out that mandate.

1.1.2.  Situation of interest  

As hinted in my abstract, Dr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser, at the CCCCC, has identified a need for a more robust approach from Caribbean governments and regional media organisations to raise the awareness of Climate-related issues in the public domain. According to (Public Media Alliance. 2018), climate change is “one of the most important issues of our time.” adding, “However, much media attention reverts to other stories, relegating environmental news to sporadic and disjointed corners of their coverage. In other words, other stories are given priority.

1.1.3.  System of interest

To address this Situation of Interest, I have chosen to design a system of interest which is a strategy to improve my learning of the situation. It is entitled: A systemic inquiry to understand the background of, and to design a system to, improve Climate Change Reporting at DBS Radio in Dominica.

This is important to me because of my family ties to Dominica and the Caribbean region. Although  I was born in the United Kingdom, I migrated to Dominica in 1972. I returned 32 years later to the UK in 2004. It goes without saying, that I have since maintained relationships with family and friends in Dominica, and keep up-to-date with developments there and in the rest of the Caribbean via social media and other traditional media.

1.2  Hurricane season 2017

Last year, was a particularly bad hurricane season for the Caribbean. With two major hurricanes sweeping through the region leaving a trail of destruction and death. According to (En.wikipedia.org 2018) the season was ‘hyperactive’ and featured‘ multiple Category 5 hurricanes.’ On September 6, Hurricane Irma devastated multiple Caribbean nations including, Barbuda, Sint Martin, the Bahamas, St Barthelemy, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands and Cuba (Nhc.noaa.gov 2018).

Two weeks later, September 17, 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica (Holmes and Van Heerden, 2018) This was very painful for me, because in 1979, I survived Hurricane Davidas a teenager while living in Dominica bringing back painful memories of the scenes of the aftermath and devastation (Editors, H. 2018)

1.3  Methodology – reason for systems approaches used.

In this report I have selected two of systems approaches taught in the TU811 module, namely, the Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) and the Critical Systems Heuristic (CSH). Of SSM, (Reynolds and Holwell 2010a pg 191 ) says, that SSM is suitable for taking an action-oriented approach to dealing with a problematic situation because of its slant towards users learning more about the situation using purposeful modelling that clarifies world-view which is helpful to analyse what may be done to help to improve the situation.

Meanwhile, (Reynolds and Holwell 2010b pg 243 ) regards CSH as a ‘framework for reflective practice’ According to the editors, CSH is aimed at providing tools for the critiquing of system boundaries, especially as it relates to stake holding and provides a framework of ‘boundary questions’ which I will use to analyse the professional and ethical implications in regard to my situation of interest.

My choice of situation of interest, in my opinion is sufficiently messy and problematic, because it involves various stakeholders who share different perspectives on the importance and relevance of climate change reporting and all its various modes, such as how governments mobilise citizens before, during and after a disaster. Such as, what role does the media have to play independent and in concert with governmental and other environmental agencies, to continue to raise awareness of climate change and other environmental issues such as natural disasters.

1.4   Future plans and career goals

These two approaches, as well as appropriate diagrams, rich pictures, illustrations and activity models, followed by my findings recommendations and reflections on how my TU811 studies fits within my immediate and future career plans and academic goals will be the main contents of the core my report.


2.0   A systemic intervention needed

Dominica and the world in general is at risk of disasters, both man-made and natural, last weekend, Tropical Storm Kirk, of winds of 50 mph passed through the Eastern Caribbean. Barbados and St Lucia bore the brunt of this event, with roofs being blown off in St Lucia, and severe flooding in Barbados. Days after, two earthquakes shook the sub-region measuring magnitudes 4,2 and 5.6 on The Richter Scale.

The Director of National Emergency Organisation (NEMO), Velda Joseph in St Lucia was the only regional executive body to issue a statement on the all clear after the storm passed (YouTube 2018a). following tropical Storm Kirk, appearing on YouTube. With another statement on the earthquakes(Youtube 2018b). I waited for a statement from the UWI Seismic Centre, but to date that has not been forthcoming.

I raise these points in opening because it describes where perspectives of multiple stakeholders are open for scrutiny, and gives an indication of where strategic invention might be needed, at both a regional level and local level. Moreover, since I will be using DBS Radio as my reference system to explore where the radio station could improve its internal culture and to show how its view of its environment could be tweaked to enhance its performance.

Reference systems, according to (Learn2.open.ac.uk. 2018 p250) are a product of a systemic intervention using the CSH’s boundary questions as an aid to unclothing the idiosyncrasies and world-views that impact and constrain an organisation’s growth and ability to become a hub for climate change news.

We will delve deeper into CSH later in this report, but for now, we will begin our investigation with a look at the possible application of some frameworks from the Soft Systems Methodology approach.


3.0  A Soft Systems Methodology Approach

 rich picture

Fig 1 A Rich Picture depicting the system of interest 

One of the first steps in my intervention was the creation of a Rich Picture of my situation of interest depicting its main stakeholders and actors. From this I was able to draw out the main factors to take into consideration that will be involved in the improved transformation of the situation.

In this picture, it shows how DBS Radio fits in to a network of comprising the  Office of Disaster management (ODM) the Dominica Met Office, it multiple listeners and stakeholders. I have also included Facebook Life as an outlet and also depicted as  looming overhead, the evils of known and unknown hazards.

3.1  Activity models CATWOE and the Root definition

activity model ema

Fig 2 A purposeful activity model

To do this I have borrowed a conceptual ideas from SSM, namely The SSM Learning Cycle. Checkland and Poulter cited in (Reynolds and Holwell 2010 pg 218) explain that the SSM learning cycle is a purposeful activity that can be used by a systemic investigator to initiate and sustain self-learning among the stakeholders involved in the inquiry, by taking a design turn to ask questions that otherwise would not have been asked.

In fig 2 above I have begun the investigation of the problem by defining a root definition.

In order to define the root definition (RD) I will make use of the PQR formula which (Reynolds and Holwell 2010) say is used to help systems thinkers to answer the (P) What- to do what (Q) How- By what means and ( R) Why-In or to achieve what of that definition.

Next, let us further investigate this by through a series of question statements referred to by (Reynolds and Holwell 2010) as the mnemonic CATWOE.

3.2  Getting to grips with world-view using CATWOE

 Our conceptual activity model would not be complete if we did not go further with our investigation of our system of interest if we did not ask ourselves who are the most important stakeholders, and beneficiaries? Or who is/are the problem owners? We also need to know how the criteria to judge our success? And also identify what falls into the domain of the environment?

CATWOE can help us to do that!

In this situation the CATWOE mnemonic is defined as:

  • Customers-The audience of DBSRadio and visitors to its on-line products
  • Actors – Presenters,program directors, minister of telecommunications

(T) Transformation – Increased frequency of climate change and environmental stories

(W) World-view (weltanschauung) – a greater appreciation by all DBS employees of the need to understand their role in climate change reporting .

(O) Owner -The manager of DBS Radio

(E) Environment – The government framework, regional media associations

4.0  Analysis 1 – 3

Our final tool that we shall use from SSM in order to improve insight into the multiple perspective and interrelationship in the situation I am investigating, will be the use of the Analysis 1, Analysis 2 and Analysis 3 conceptual frameworks as introduced by Peter Checkland and John Poulter and cited by (Reynolds and Holwell 2010 pp 211 -218)

For the sake of brevity, I present my findings below, namely as:

4.1  Analysis 1 – The Intervention

  1. Client: Dr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC)
  2. Practitioner: Albert Williams MBCS
  3. Issue Owner: DBS Radio subscribers, Government of Dominica, regional populations and organisations, academic researchers and international humanitarian agencies and others

4.2   Analysis 2 – Social

  1. Roles:The Manager at DBS Radio, Dominica Broadcasting Corporation, general public.   
  2. Norms:To present top-quality coverage of climate change and other environmental issues
  3. Values: Judging by performance against similar international radio stations and other media outlets

4.3   Analysis 3 – Political

The power ‘obtained, used, defended, passed on and relinquished’ by DBS Radio is enshrined in the Dominica Broadcasting Corporation Act Chapter 45:06 , Act 33 of 1975 Amended by 32 of 1978 (Dominica.gov.dm. 2018)




5.0  Applying boundary critique



 12 csh questions

Fig 3 The 12 CSH boundary questions adapted from (The Open University 2010p 152)

Critical Systems Heuristics is a systems approach developed by Werner Ulrich and Martin Reynolds and is extremely useful for ‘reflective ‘ in regards to understanding how the complex and messy nature of a system of interest interacts with its environment through its boundary. (Reynold and Holwell 2010 p243). The main framework within this approach is the use of 12 boundary questions which seek to answer and questions the underlying assumptions inherent in matters of stake-holding, especially as it relates to matters of getting to grips with the political and ethical concerns on two fronts: boundary reflection, which is the view of the boundary as it( is), and boundary discourse- a view of the boundary as it (ought) to be (Reynold and Holwell 2010 p131)

Consequently, we will now use this 12-question framework, that isolates the main sources of influences as represented in fig 3 above, as an ‘intervention tool’ to discuss our system of interest in order to create a boundary critique of the reference system with which to complement our findings from our use of Soft Systems Methodology earlier. Additionally, also as an aid in our inquiry making full use of the range of multiple perspectives and interrelationships bearing on this situation.

We will simplify our discussion by populating the table (below) with our responses to the questions of these sources of influences generate.

Boundary judgements informing a system to improve Climate Change Reporting at DBS Radio in Dominica.



Normative (Ought)
  Sources of motivation      
1 Beneficiaries Listening audiences and visitors to its website and social media Climate change stories are intermittent.Social media update intermittent Need for regular productions highlighting climate change matters.More engagement on website and social media profiles
2 Purpose As defined in the  Broadcasting Act: government of  Dominica; the general public. Climate change reporting heightened during the passage of a storm Need to produce more informative programs outside of the hurricane season,
3 Measure of success Do the listeners engage with the station. No apparent mechanism to measure success. Regular post-mortem discussions on the impact of its environment-related productions.
  Sources of control      
4 Decision maker The board of the Dominica Broadcasting  Corporation. The manager, Program Director and on-air presenters at DBS Little purposive productions aimed at discussing and analysing trends and climatic events The need to create a position for a station-based meteorologist. Also a need for specialised reporter to focus on climate-related stories.
5 Resources Government of Dominica funding, revenue generated from advertising etc Minimum funding leading to mediocre output A greater injection of funds to improve training, hiring staff and putting resources into research and documentation
6 Decision environment Government of Dominica; Board of directors. Manager, program director. Priorities may be set by station manager Station may need to create a focus group to assist the research and development of suitable stories
  Sources of knowledge      
7 Expert Newsroom reporters and program director Unsatisfactory generation of interesting on-air programs A need exists for media experts to restructure programming around climate news
8 Expertise DBS Radio Unsatisfactory generation of interesting on-air programs Upgrade of the competencies of the research department and on-air staff to create engaging stories
9 Guarantor DBS Radio, listeners, other stakeholders The station may be trapped in complacency Station needs to question its worldview
  Sources of Legitimacy      
10 Witness Audience A semi-informed audience A highly intelligent listening audience
11 Emancipation DBS Radio stakeholders Not much lobbying and investigative journalism Reporters at the station highly motivated to question other stakeholders in the region.
12 World view DBS Radio Mediocre acceptance of  its responsibility to its audience.Focused more on cultural and current affairs programming. A total commitment to producing the highest possible level Climate and environmental programming.

Table 1: An early boundary critique investigation to improve climate change reporting at DBS Radio


 6.0 Outcomes and recommendations

In closing, I have found that DBS Radio’s approach to climate change reporting to be outdated, and that this is leading to a lack of credible, localised, discussion of climate related issues, that are systemically desirable and culturally feasible for the greater percentage of its stakeholders and problem owners.

Therefore, I want to end my report with these recommendations for DBS Radio

  1. To establish a climate change unit
  2. Incorporate investigative training for newsroom staff.
  3. Train a station-based meteorologist.
  4. Create appropriate programs, jingles and other documentaries to highlight the importance of the environment.
  5. Under-study international media to understand how a revamped on-air program could work.
  6. Lobby for the acquisition of equipment and software to produce appropriate programming
  7. Network with other local, regional and international television, print and radio media houses and meteorologist agencies to form partnerships and networks.
  8. Hire or nominate a web master to monitor and create content to update the social media pages and websites
  9. Create a focus group to work alongside the station to develop and review programming
  10. Secure the services of mass communication experts to assist where possible.


7.0   Reflections

7.1   Difficulties As I draw to the close of this end-of-module report, and to the final moments of my study of TU811-Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change, I must underscore that the report represents my personal world-view of the situation of interest, and my systemic intervention is a product of my own analysis. Ideally, in a real-world scenario, the report would have benefited from the input from the various stakeholders via workshops and questionnaires.

7.2   Future practice Nevertheless, I have found the knowledge gained from TU811 to be extremely enlightening. I see further study of systems thinking to be an integral component of my tool box as I prepare for my final module, T809-The Research Project in my F36- MSc Technology pathway, which commences in February 2019.

Moreover, I will carry study habits and academic writing skills that I have learned from this module into my future academic career and any work environment I find myself in the future.





8.0   References


Dominicanewsonline.com. (2018). UPDATE: Two earthquakes rock Dominica – Dominica News Online. [online] Available at: http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/general/update-two-earthquakes-rock-dominica/ [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

Dominica.gov.dm. (2018). [online] Available at: http://www.dominica.gov.dm/laws/chapters/chap45-06.pdf [Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].



En.wikipedia.org. (2018). 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Atlantic_hurricane_season [Accessed 30 Sep. 2018].



Editors, H. (2018). Hurricane David is born. [online] HISTORY. Available at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hurricane-david-is-born [Accessed 30 Sep. 2018].


Ifrc.org. (2018). About disaster management – IFRC . [online] Available at: https://www.ifrc.org/en/what-we-do/disaster-management/about-disaster-management/ [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].



Jamaica-gleaner.com. (2018). Media must play bigger role in the climate-change dialogue – Expert. [online] Available at: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20180815/media-must-play-bigger-role-climate-change-dialogue-expert [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

Learn2.open.ac.uk. (2018). Sign IN – Open University. [online] Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/pluginfile.php/2191344/mod_resource/content/4/ebook_tu811_systems-approaches_ch6_l3_2.pdf [Accessed 1 Oct. 2018].

Michael Holmes and Dominique van Heerden, C. (2018). Dominica knocked to its knees by Hurricane Maria’s might. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/20/world/hurricane-maria-dominica/index.html [Accessed 30 Sep. 2018].

Nhc.noaa.gov. (2018). Hurricane IRMA . [online] Available at: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2017/al11/al112017.public_a.023.shtml? [Accessed 5 Oct. 2018].

Nhc.noaa.gov. (2018). Tropical Storm KIRK . [online] Available at: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2018/al12/al122018.public.017.shtml? [Accessed 5 Oct. 2018].

Public Media Alliance. (2018). Disaster and climate change reporting: Discovering new pathways in the Caribbean – Public Media Alliance. [online] Available at: https://www.publicmediaalliance.org/disasters-climate-change-reporting-pathways-caribbean/ [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].


Reynolds, M. and Holwell, S. (eds) (2010a) Systems Approaches to Managing

Change: a practical guide, London, Springer.

Reynolds, M. and Holwell, S. (eds) (2010b)  Systems Approaches to Managing

Change: a practical guide, London, Springer.

Telesurtv.net. (2018). Barbados: Tropical Storm Kirk Causes Widespread Flooding, Heavy Rains. [online] Available at: https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Barbados-Tropical-Storm-Kirk-Causes-Widespread-Flooding-Heavy-Rains-20180928-0008.html [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

The Open University (2010) TU811 Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change. Study Guide. Milton Keynes, The Open University.

YouTube. (2018a). Statement by Director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), Velda Joseph. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtizvGkDfh8 [Accessed 5 Oct. 2018].




YouTube. (2018b). Statement by Director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), Velda Joseph. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtizvGkDfh8 [Accessed 5 Oct. 2018].