Vantage Point: November

Nov. 4, 2013, by Rachel Sinha

Abuse of power in our systems is never far away. Whether it's JP Morgan cutting a deal with regulators to pay $13 billion for charges it knowingly sold bad mortgage bonds, Rebekah Brooks in the dock for phone hacking or revelations about Angela Merkel being bugged by the US.

There's a growing belief that to really shift the culture of these failing systems and to build alternatives, we need to take a systemic approach. Innovation and policy alone, are not enough.

Discontentment is coupled with momentum behind an exciting cluster of social innovators practicing, convening and writing about how to do it.

Three of my favourites so far have been;

  • Systems theory for scaling social good

THNK's (The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership) very interesting blog series on scaling using Complexity Theory, Behavioral Economics and Systems Theory as a basis.

They describe scaling as the successful introduction of innovations that spread rapidly in non-linear fashion, seemingly self-propelled and with relatively little effort, resulting in an outsized impact.

The series covers three main areas; Emergence (small changes can have an outsized aggregated impact at a system level), Networks (understand the structure of a social network you are targeting) and Waves (get at the forefront of an emerging trend). Within each, the blogs identify strategies that leaders can use to scale.

  • Building better market systems 

Michele Kahane at The New School in New York, came up with this framework after interviewing around 30 'Leaders Shaping Market Systems' as a follow-up to a dialogue of the same name. It outlines a series of tactics and methods that interviewees were using from Ethnography to coalition-building, finding ambassadors to creating communities of practice. This is an ongoing piece of work hosted by The Criterion Institute who will be hosting a Convergence of these leaders in Connecticut next March.

  • Beginners guide to 

The brilliant people at Social Innovation Generation in Toronto have come up with this simple set of resources that help frame the theory and practice of systems change. It's got something for everyone in it, from Power Point slides to academic articles and carefully chosen videos. Nesta deserve an honourable mention here too for their broad reaching Discussion paper and blog series at the start of this year on the topic.

The Point People and systems change

The Point People is a group of 16 well connected ladies who come from a host of different systems; the arts, to education, to health, to finance, to design.... We were invented by the most super connected of us all, Cassie Robinson, who could see that the best ideas from one system were not being translated so they could be used in another.

One of our latests ventures has been to pull from our vast network and convene, interview and video around 15 leaders working on systemic innovation in London. They cover a whole range of systems and organisations from The Young Foundation, to NSPCC, to Volans. We are in the process of editing these by the themes that emerged and will launch the finished product on our site before Christmas.