During interacting along and across levels, entity systems offer mutual contributions to each other. The development of each of them depends on the reciprocity of exchange.
If the mutual contributions (i.e. give and take) between entity systems at the same level and between levels are balanced, the interacting systems are likely to prosper. Taking at the expense of others without giving back exploits and impairs development of some, if not all, interacting systems.
Activity systems that contribute to systems in the inner environment are also referred to as distributive activity systems. Examples are education and infrastructure provision to the members of society, or the bloodstream offering nutrients and messages to the cells in the body.
Balanced development across levels involves a balance between contribution and distribution. For example, society provides opportunities for development to its members in order to enable them to make contributions to society. If few members contribute (e.g. to the creation of collective wealth), there is little to distribute. If many contribute but distribution favours a few, the many are marginalised. These are likely to object (e.g. stop contributing or rebel) sooner or later, recreating (or attempting to recreate) balance.
Time lags between contributing and distributing activities are associated with risks (e.g. economic or political risks) and investing in hope for future returns.
Fairness of exchange is a systemic development principle.
relevance for the change manager
In an organisational context, the service provided and reward received for it balances contribution and distribution. In many organisations this is not governed by fair exchange (e.g. the organisation does not reward or employees do not contribute sufficiently), co-producing various personal, organisational and societal problems.