Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version



Krippendorff, Kraus and Frederick Steier. "Cybernetic Properties of Helping: the Organizational Level. In Richard F. Ericson (Ed.) The Human Condition: Quality and Stability in Social Systems. Louisville, KY: Society for General Systems. August 1979.


The paper examines a very common situation in which help (in the form of goods, services, financial aid or advice) is provided to some group (family, institution, nation) in need. Examples from family therapy, international aid for development, and management consultancy illustrate the characterization of help as an asymmetrical, need satisfying, and temporal relation.

The aim of the paper is to develop a suitable cybernetic and systems theoretical framework for analyzing such relations. One key to this framework is the distinction between organization, information and energy as different kinds of inputs or exchanges. Another key is the distinction between the kind of help that does or does not consider the systemic context in which it is provided, and in the former case whether or not it includes a conception of the cybernetic (circular) nature of the process of helping.

The conclusion contains several recommendations.

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Date Posted: 06 October 2010