Determining Boundary Judgements with CSH

CSH can best be seen as a methodology in which 1) boundary judgements of stakeholders are identified and 2) they are critically examined with stakeholders. CSH does not determine how these two steps are to be executed, not even the order in which it should take place, but it does provide tools. Researchers can decide for themselves which specific methods and techniques are deployed. For example: interviews can be conducted with stakeholders, or source research can be performed to find boundary judgements. Another option is for stakeholders to question each other – with the specific instruction to postpone judgement. In order to critically view each other’s boundary judgements, a constructive dialogue can be held by means of the eternal triangle technique which we will explain later on. With the Laws of Form (LoF) concepts of distinction and second-order cybernetics' first-order and second-order observers, we are in a position to examine the boundary judgements stakeholders use in certain situations. CSH uses twelve boundary judgments (subdivided into four focus areas – which in their turn are placed under two involvement categories (see Table 1). With these focus areas, a complete holistic overview of how stakeholders regard a situation and what assumptions they have made in this respect, is created from various perspectives according to Ulrich. The twelve questions can be applied to the current situation in two ways: the as-is modus and the as-it-should-be modus.

  • The involved are stakeholders that have influence:
    • Motives;
    • Power;
    • Knowledge.
  • The affected are stakeholders that have no influence:
    • Legitimacy.

Statement: A constructive dialog can take place on the basis of first and second order boundary judgments.

Aspect: Critical Reflection, Principle: Create room for change, Principle page: Principles and Ground Rules

Statement page Statement
Determining Boundary Judgements with CSH A constructive dialog can take place on the basis of first and second order boundary judgments.
Self-observation Concentrate on how to look, instead of what to see.
Self-observation You need someone else to point out your blind spots to you.

Principles, aspects and statements overview

Sources of influences Social roles


Specific concerns


Key problems

(Stakeholder issues)

Sources of Motivation Benificiary

Who is (ought to be) the client? That is, whose interests are (should be) served?


What is (ought to be) the purpose? That is, what are (should be) the consequences?

Measure of improvement

What is (ought to be) the measure of improvement? That is, how can (should) we determine that the consequences, taken together, constitute an improvement?

The involved
Sources of Power Decision maker

Who is (ought to be) the decision-maker? That is, who is (should be) in a position to change the measure of improvement?


What resources are (ought to be) controlled by the decision-maker? That is, what conditions of success can (should) those involved control?

Decision environment

What conditions are (ought to be) part of the decision environment? That is, what conditions can (should) the decision-maker not control (e.g. from the viewpoint of those not involved)?

Sources of Knowledge Experts

Who is (ought to be) considered a professional? That is, who is (should be) involved as an expert, e.g. as a researcher, planner or consultant?


What expertise is (ought to be) consulted? That is, what counts (should count) as relevant knowledge?


What or who is (ought to be) assumed to be the guarantor of success? That is, where do (should) those involved seek some guarantee that improvement will be achieved - for example, consensus among experts, the involvement of stakeholders, the experience and intuition of those involved, political support?

Sources of Legitimation Witness

Who is (ought to be) witness to the interests of those affected but not involved? That is, who is (should be) treated as a legitimate stakeholder, and who argues (should argue) the case of those stakeholders who cannot speak for themselves, including future generations and non-human nature?


What secures (ought to secure) the emancipation of those affected from the premises and promises of those involved? That is, where does (should) legitimacy lie?


What worldview is (ought to be) determining? That is, what different visions of `improvement’ are (ought to be) considered, and how are they (should they be) reconciled?

The affected

Table 1: Boundary questions (Ulrich, Reflective Practice in the Civil Society - The Contribution of Critically Systemic Thinking, 2000).

For readers acquainted with Dutch, the 'Topiclist verkenning wereldbeelden' offers more down to earth questions to be asked.