The Vantage Point: April

April 5, 2013, by Sophia Parker

Systems innovation - what's that all about then?

January saw the publication of not one, but two papers on systemic innovation, handily bundled together for easy reading. If you're not sure what we're talking about when we say 'systems innovation', this is a good place to start. Between them, Geoff Mulgan and Charlie Leadbeater cover definitions, methods and the potential of systems innovation, as well as reflecting on how it might help us to tackle some of the great social challenges of our time.

A decade of destitution

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, predicts that we will see a level of poverty we did not imagine we'd see again on these shores in the coming decade. In this lecture, she asks 'what would Beveridge do?' Her conclusions call for market, state and community to work together to create a new approach to tackling poverty that is as bold as the welfare state settlement of 70 years ago, but that better reflects life in the 21st century.

Reconnection and resilience

John Houghton (the guy behind the excellent Metropolitan Lines blog) argues that the move towards community-led regeneration is a positive step, but it's not enough to rebuild fractured neighbourhoods and towns. 'The residents of the poorest neighbourhoods are coming up with their own ideas. But society can't pat them on the head for their gumption and leave them to fight against the tide.' Local initiatives may build resilience, but reconnection is also needed - linking local neighbourhood renewal efforts to wider initatiives for sustainable urban development.

Lean in - really?

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg wants to be the new face of feminism, and her new book Lean In: Women, Work And The Will To Lead is supposed to empower women by letting them in on the secret of how to play the alpha male game. C'mon girls, speak up in meetings! Don't let the desire to have kids actually influence your career choices! Make your man wash his own socks! Yvonne Roberts' excoriating article hits the nail on the head about why this book is so depressingly wrong. As feminists, we've got to transform our current models of work, not play along with them.

Collective impact

From economic inequality to climate change, the really tough societal challenges we face dwarf individual organisations and initiatives. And yet our grant-making infrastructure is still geared to funding initiatives proposed by single organisations. Stanford Social Innovation Review has a very good series on aiming for collective impact, starting with this introduction. For alliances to be successful in achieving a goal, they need a common agenda, mututally reinforcing activities, shared measurement systems, a lot of communication and some discrete resources for co-ordination. I predict we will hear more and more about these issues.

And for some light relief...

If you're wondering when your expenditure on loungewear might peak, you'd better take a look at these 35 graphs mapping lifetime expenditures. Fascinating stuff.

When all you need is love but all you've got is 45 minutes, try this. In fact, even if you've got love, try it. You will have some wonderful conversations, I promise.