Models and frameworks

From sensemaking and system viability to diagnosis and modalities

On this page we present some useful models that have great utility during the design of StoryForms, for catalysis, in participatory workshops and in general the creating and evaluation of meaning [1] several models are used. Most of them also feature in the Glossary.

Presenting multiple models always involves choices how to orient them. We have chosen here to align them so that chaos points south (downwards). This is mainly because participants in sensemaking sessions participants often realize they have limited information and knowledge of the world, have limited control and realize that a huge part of the earth they live on is like chaos to them. As the world (earth) is beneath there feet is seems natural to put chaos on the the bottom (down, south) side. Although it is a fact that the world as a whole is (physically, chemically, biologically and economically) a complex adaptive system we still want to stress this “perspective of chaos” by putting chaos downwards.

Confluence Sensemaking Framework (CSF)

The Confluence Sensemaking Framework (CSF, Cynthia Kurtz, 2010) [2] is a tool to make sense of any situation in order to make decisions about it. Here we publish the simplest form.



Cynefin Model

The Cynefin Sensemaking Framework [3] was originally a two-by-two matrix model developed in 1999 by Dave Snowden within IBM Research and developed into the 5-domain form together with Cynthia Kurtz, Sharon Darwent and c.s. at the IBM Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity [4].CynefinThe model continues to be developed within Cognitive Edge.

Knowledge in Formation Framework (KiF)

KiF [5] is a model for the formation of knowledge by the brain, devoloped in the ’90s. The KiF model is based on early work by  the semiotician Charles Sanders Pierce. The representation presented here is a simplified version created by Auke van Breemen and Harold van Garderen around 2013. Knowledge in Formation


Viable System Model (VSM)

The viable system model (VSM) is a nested model of the organisational structure of any autonomous system capable of producing itself. A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are adaptable. The VSM expresses a model for a viable system, which is an abstracted cybernetic (regulation theory) description that is applicable to any organisation that is a viable system and capable of autonomy. (based on / source:wikipedia) [5]:

VSMPlease note that the orientation of the VSM has chaos on the left, not south/down. That is because we don’t have a proper visual for that.


Doyerweerd Modalities

Herman Dooyerweerd [6] delineated 15 modalities (ways of being, functioning, etc.) for the positing of meaning that cannot be reduced to each other:

  • Quantitative aspect: amount
  • Spatial aspect: continuous extension
  • Kinematic aspect: flowing movement
  • Physical aspect: energy, matter
  • Biotic/Organic aspect: life functions, self-maintenance
  • Sensitive/Psychic aspect: feeling and response
  • Analytical aspect: distinction, conceptualization
  • Formative aspect: formative power, achievement, technology, technique
  • Lingual aspect: symbolic communication
  • Social aspect: social interaction
  • Economic aspect: frugal use of resources
  • Aesthetic aspect: harmony, surprise, fun
  • Juridical aspect: due (rights, responsibility)
  • Ethical aspect: self-giving love
  • Pistic aspect: faith, vision, commitment, belief

Dooyeweerd claimed that since the discovery of these is addressed by our theoretical functioning, which is fallible, no suite of aspects, including his own, can “lay claim to material completion”.


  1. The Measurement Of Meaning. Charles E. Osgood
  2. The CSF emerged from further development of the Cynefin sensemaking framework that Cynthia contributed to while she worked for IBM and with Cognitive Edge between 1999 and 2008.
  3. The Social Ecology of Knowledge Management. David Snowden in Knowledge Horizons, Pages 237-265. The Present and the Promise of Knowledge Management. Edited by:Charles Despres and Daniele Chauvel.
  4. The new dynamics of strategy: sense-making in a complex and complicated world. Kurtz, C. F., and D. J. Snowden. 2003. IBM Systems Journal 42:462-483.
  5. Towards thought as a logical picture of signs. J.J. Sarbo,  S. Hoppenbrouwers,  J.I. Farkas in Computing Anticipatory Systems (CASYS’01), D. M. Dubois (ed.), Liege.
  6. Herman Dooyeweerd (7 October 1894, Amsterdam – 12 February 1977, Amsterdam) was a Dutch juridical scholar by training, who by vocation was a philosopher and a co-founder of the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea with Dirk Vollenhoven. Dooyeweerd made several contributions to philosophy and other theoretical thought, including concerning: the nature of diversity and coherence in everyday experience, the transcendental conditions for theoretical thought, the relationship between religion and philosophy, and a different view of meaning, being, time and self. Dooyeweerd is most famous for his suite of fifteen aspects (or ‘law-spheres’), which are distinct ways in which reality can be meaningful and good, and can exist and occur. This suite of aspects is finding application in practical analysis, research and teaching in such diverse fields as built environment, sustainability, agriculture, business, information systems and development. (source: wikipedia)