The Systems Entrepreneur: What’s in a name?

The Systems Entrepreneur: What’s in a name?

‘Systems leader’, ‘systemsprenuer’, or ‘systems entrepreneur’. Pick your favorite. Regardless of which one you go for, the concept is emerging with SSIR, HBR and MIT all using it, along with a cluster of philanthropic foundations and consultancies.

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The Challenge of Systems Leadership

The Challenge of Systems Leadership
At no time in history have we needed… system leaders more.”
— Peter Senge et al in their seminal 2015 SSIR article The Dawn of Systems Leadership

But, being a systems leader is hard work. It’s slow, painstaking, with many dead ends, limited fans and just when you think ‘why am I doing this again?’, a smattering of inspiring, life affirming moments that keep you committed to the cause.

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Common challenges in systems change

Common challenges in systems change

Power dynamics are always at play in systems change work. How do you build enough credibility to convene the best actors in a system? How do you get finance for your work when the people with the money often have a vested interest in things staying the same? How do you accept money from the power brokers of a system and keep questioning its foundations? If you are a funder, how do you get close enough to the actors in a system, to be able to make a fair assessment of the project? 

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The field of systems change is growing

The field of systems change is growing

"If no one shows up, I'm looking forward to listening to you guys anyway" we said to each other. 

The 'we' was Lorin Fries, Head of Food Systems Collaboration at the World Economic Forum and Ava Lala from Geneva Global and I. We had been invited by Jeff Glenn to speak on a panel at the Harvard Social Enterprise conference on the topic of 'systems entrepreneurship'. 

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