Tag Archives: leverage points

birthday cake

What is essential? Reflections on my 40th birthday

With the world starting into 2021, I personally have also started into the 5th decade of my life. While I can’t say I am going through a midlife crisis, one obviously does reflect on what has been and what is still to come. One question I have asked myself is if we, who are in the midst of their lives now, are a lost generation. Grown up and educated in the system that is now unravelling and falling apart but tied to it an unable to change. Many of us recognise that things are unravelling; we understand that our way of life is the problem. Yet at the same time we are so strongly entangled into this current paradigm that we feel incapable to escape from its scripts, behavioural norms and measures of success. Indeed, we often don’t even see how our daily behaviours contribute to the perpetuation of the existing but failing paradigm. What does this mean? What can we still do?

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rigid boundary

Systemic change: changing the conditions that hold a situation in place (with a link to Covid-19)

Currently there seems to be a lot going on around systems change, particularly driven by a few organisations that have picked up the topic and drive it forward, including large philanthropic funders that so far have mainly focused on social entrepreneurship and social innovation. They seem to have raised that with simply scaling social enterprises or social innovations, systemic change does not happen and that a systemic view on change is needed. So they have started to put together research projects on figuring out what systemic change is. One thing that emerges from these initiatives is hopefully a wider agreement on what is meant by systems change, which all systems change practitioners could profit from. I’m happy to see that the way I have been thinking about systems change seems to be largely aligned with that emerging consensus.

The definition of what systemic change or systems change (I don’t think there is a difference between the two) is converges around changes in structures that shape the current situation. A very simple but useful definition of systems change comes from the Social Innovation Generation (SIG) in Canada: shifting the conditions that are holding the problem in place (quoted in Kania, Kramer and Senge 2018. This is in line with what I called transformative change – a transformation of the system’s structure. We do not just have to solve the problem but we want to transform the conditions that are holding the problem in place.

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