Launching a new program for system entrepreneurs who are ‘halfway through’

We are excited to announce the launch of our new peer-to-peer learning program, The Systems Sanctuary, for systems entrepreneurs who are head down, sleeves rolled up and have been working on their systems change project for at least two years.

We’ve chosen this group because we see a gaping hole in support for people who are really in the thick of it.

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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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Interview: Systems change network builders

Interview: Systems change network builders

Some things I’ve learnt:

  • The people who live and breathe in the system are those who have to come up with the solutions to change it. Inputs from external experts are useful but they have to make sense to the people in the system.
  • The system, not the poor, must be the unit of intervention if we want sustainable impact at scale.
  • You have to listen to the system. Truly listen; without confirmation biases, without ego, without expectations, without intention, listen quietly and openly.
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Mutiny at your workshop 

Mutiny at your workshop 

Everyone who’s convened has been there.

Sometimes it looks like a huddle of people talking at lunchtime, avoiding your eye contact. It can be a friendly chat at dinner, “you should really do x”. Or a more direct hand up in plenary, "we've been talking and we just don't think we're focusing on the right thing." 

Psychologists talk about ‘emotional contagion’. This is where one person's emotions and behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people. Emotional contagion means that if you don't nip it in the bud, you can have a full blown mutiny on your hands. 

In my experience, there are some important moves you can make to prevent it happening in the first place. Here they are: 

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Interview: Systems change network builders

Interview: Systems change network builders

Some things I’ve learnt:

  • The people who live and breathe in the system are those who have to come up with the solutions to change it. Inputs from external experts are useful but they have to make sense to the people in the system.
  • The system, not the poor, must be the unit of intervention if we want sustainable impact at scale.
  • You have to listen to the system. Truly listen; without confirmation biases, without ego, without expectations, without intention, listen quietly and openly.
Read More

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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How to: Changing hearts and minds for systems change

How to: Changing hearts and minds for systems change

“Speak the truth. Speak it loud and often, calmly but insistently, and speak it… to power.” Said Donella Meadows.

When we know a system is oppressing people, or destroying our natural world, how to we inspire enough people to transform it with an urgency that reflects how we feel?

What’s needed is a ‘Paradigm shift’ “a time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something changes completely”.

In Geels’ (2002) Transition Theory model, this kind of change happens at the ‘Landscape level’:

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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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