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Dr Maya Vachkova

Senior Lecturer in Systems Thinking and Programme Director of the Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship

I am a systems thinker and a facilitator with a passion for social issues and participatory organisational transformations. I hold an LLM, an MA in Peace, Conflict and Development and a PhD in Systems Thinking.

I am the Programme Director for the MSc Systems Thinking in the Public Sector - an applied Apprenticeship for civil servants. 

My external engagements are a membership and support of Metaphorum and a visiting fellowship at the Centre for Systems Studies at the University of Hull. 

Contact me at 

Research interests

The use of soft OR and problem structuring methods for resilient futures. An investigation of the practical applications of soft OR and PSM to enhance and balance the variety of System 4 in organisations and projects mapped onto the viable system model.

The good, the bad and the ugly: regulation and soft OR. A critical re-examination of Ashby’s ‘Good regulator theorem’.

‘Pass the rolodex!’ – a critique of critical systems thinking.

Innovating with soft systems methodology – the use of systemic approaches in theory-driven thematic    analysis. 

State-led Interventions and Systems of Identity – an exploratory study of how perspectives form in relation to each other when identity expressions are legislated against.

Systemic Suicide Prevention – an analysis of the framing of suicide prevention in British policy documents, focusing on the British construction industry.

PhD project in Systems Thinking: Identity and Marginalisation – the case of the Bulgarian face-veiling ban. A systemic evaluation of the effects of the face-veiling legislation as an intervention in a system of ethnic identities.

Innovation and Business Ethics in Chinese SMEs – an exploratory study of SMEs in the province of Hubei, China. The study established a positive relationship between technological innovation and responsible business practices in terms of social and environmental sustainability. 

Big Data and MSMEs in Malaysia - an exploration of the extent to which Big Data and predictive analytics were used in by Malaysian MSMEs and their application to supply chain, consumer relationship management and warehouse management.

Summertime and Covid-19 – a Big Data analysis of TripAdvisor reviews before and after the pandemic to estimate changing patterns of consumer priorities. Reviews of hotels from seven Spanish (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Palma) and seven Greek summer vacation destinations (Santorini, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos, Crete, Mykonos and Cephalonia) were used for a large-scale machine-aided sentiment analysis.



Espinosa, E., Midgley, G. and Walker, J. (2021). Review of the Hull University Teaching Hospitals (HUTH) Trust’s COVID Response in the First and Second Waves: Overview Report. Centre for Systems Studies, Faculty of Business, Law and Politics. Kingston upon Hull: Hull University.

Vachkova, M., Midgley, G., Espinosa, A. and Walker, J. (2021). Review of the Hull University Teaching Hospitals (HUTH) Trust COVID Response: Interim Report. Kingston upon Hull: Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Ghouri, A. M., Akhtar, P., Vachkova, M., Shahbaz, M., Tiwari, A. K., & Palihawadana, D. (2019). Emancipatory Ethical Social Media Campaigns: Fostering Relationship Harmony and Peace. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-14.

Khan, M., Khan H., Vachkova, M (2021). The mediating role of location-based user-generated content and tourist purchase intentions. Advances in Hospitality and Tourism Research.

Shahi, A. and Vachkova, M. (2018). Eco-Sectarianism: From Ecological Disasters to Sectarian Violence in Syria. Asian Affairs, 49(3), pp.449-467.

Shahi, A. and Vachkova, M. (2018). Water Security and the Rise of Sectarian Conflict in Yemen In Mujtaba, I., Majozi, T., Amosa, M. (eds.). (2019). Water Management. Boca Raton: CRC Press, pp 3-11. 

Research supervision

Open to supervising and advising students who are interested in systems thinking, cybernetics, complexity and soft OR.

Modules taught


My hometown is Varna, Bulgaria where I attended the First Language School and then moved on to achieve an LLM at the University of Sofia in 2011. During the Arab Spring, I worked in the human rights and refugee sector in Bulgaria on domestic violence, refugee and civil rights projects. As such, I have facilitated multiple meetings between Government agencies in Bulgaria, the UNHCR and NGOs from the refugee sector, in order to find collaborative solutions to complex social issues.

Since then, I’ve had a keen interest in stakeholder engagement and marginalisation processes. I have researched the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, particularly the role of water management in sectarian violence. In 2016, I was awarded a full scholarship from the Centre for Systems Studies at the University of Hull, where I benefited from the mentorship and guidance of Professor Gerald MidgleyProfessor Yasmin Merali and Professor Gerry Johnstone. Maya's PhD project was in systemic marginalization and identity processes, focusing on the face-veil ban in Bulgaria.

I am familiar with several methodologies for applied systems thinking, cybernetics and soft OR (the viable system model, critical systems heuristics, soft systems methodology, interactive planning, strategic assumption surfacing and testing, system dynamics – to name but a few). I’ve delivered systemic consultancies in SMEs from the Bulgarian food sector where I helped small businesses rethink their sales and distribution strategy. I participated in the first of its kind COVID-19 management evaluation project at a British NHS Trust. The project was an employee-led evaluation of the Trust’s COVID-19 management relying on the viable system model (VSM) to inform recommendations for the Trust. Additionally, I have delivered a number of other consultancies in the private sector in the States, UK and Bulgaria, reliant on multimethodology. 

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