Large Systems Change through multi-stakeholder, multi- sector, and multi-scale governance networks

October 13, 2017

SW Cover Front without name

Steve Waddell’s book Change for the Audacious: A Doer’s Guide to Large Systems Change for Flourishing Futures reads like a thorough introduction to the emerging reality of Large Systems Change through multi-stakeholder, multi-sector, and multi-scale governance networks. This book will allow you to acquire an understanding of an emerging reality that may defy your immediate level of experience. It will give you an idea of how to contribute to the paradigm shift that is quietly appearing behind and between the present structures of power. It will serve us here as an introduction to a number of key ideas and practices.

Waddell’s book performs an enormous synthesis and covers a very wide and complex field of evolving reality, which it renders more understandable. It is also very detailed in the nuts and bolts of emergent transformation: what are its domains, its new evolving forms, the tools that it uses and, most of all, the individual and organizational transformations that it requires from those involved in its realization. From the start, one element stands out: much of the global transformation work comes from working with inter-organizational networks freely converging and loosely associating with the goal of moving the system to which they belong in new directions. An example: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wants to move all stakeholders in the “forest and forest-product system” in a direction that supports sustainable forestry practices. This includes forest companies, manufacturers of forest products, retailers of those products, environmentalists, the forest communities, consumers, financiers and others.

What are Networks?

Defining networks is a critical task since they tend to be confused with loose informal associations of many kinds, or with inter-organizational partnerships. Given the diffuse reality, and loose nature of agreements subscribed to in networks, only the enthusiasm of deep connection, shared vision, extreme flexibility and widespread leadership can work in the absence of the more usual command and control carrots and sticks.

Four Stages of Change

Waddell’s approach is one of constant both/and; of recognizing that various levels of reality must be considered and integrated – even those with which we may not have natural affinity. The various stages of change are listed as incremental change (variations within a given context); reform (breakthroughs obtained through activism and political action) and transformation, the latter coinciding with Otto Scharmer’s “listening to the future that wants to emerge.” The third of these is the crux of the whole book, though incremental change and reform are integrated. The science for those has already been extensively developed.

Two other building blocks are essential and are added gradually. The first is defining one of four contexts: simple, complicated, complex, chaotic

2A Figure - CynfinWe can distinguish: “simple” realities of the kind that we can sense, categorize and respond to with best practices. The “complicated” level of reality that can be thoroughly analyzed, as in the case of some piece of sophisticated machinery, and addressed with sets of strategies. Transformation deals with the next two levels. In the “complex” systems we cannot predict how parts will interact with each other and interactions are non-linear; it is not  possible to discern root causes or act from single control mechanisms. Finally, “chaotic” situations (e.g., emerging after natural or manmade disasters) can be approached through the parts that respond as complicated systems, then resort to the approach of complex systems, outlined above.

To enter transformational pathways we need to operate away from the control and command paradigm to one of “sense and respond”: by foregoing the illusion of predictability; creating multitudes of paths and alternatives we can explore and with which we can experiment; and associating the experiences with rapid cycles of learning that allow to map out further steps.

Creation/Destruction and Collaboration/Confrontation

5B Figure Strategy QuadrantsThe book directs us to the next crucial distinction. Societal paradigm change is based on the polarities of creation / destruction and collaboration / confrontation, and the corresponding in between areas: negotiating change, forcing change, supporting change, co-creating change. Yes, the work of emergence is geared towards the inclusion of the greatest diversity, or supporting change, co-creating change. But it doesn’t ignore that some social forces are firmly opposed to change, and that they will only come to the table when their power will be diminished. Thus, at the level of networks all strategies need to be included. The part of the global change agent lies in offering highly differentiated approaches. Because creation of the new implies the destruction of the old, there is a place here both for the new tools of emergence and for the activism with which we are most familiar.. And the two stances work best together.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

The change strategies are then immersed in the reality of the three sectors—state, market and civil society—and what is now known as cross-sector collaboration

3 Sectors Image Waddell

This integration of perspectives rests on the need to honor the specific perspective of each sector. It has to resort to the highest possible participatory processes and deliberations because of the challenges inherent in harmonizing such diverse perspectives. The three sectors are one-sided and their collaboration is necessary in order to apprehend and integrate all aspects of the social reality, in order to ‘rebalance society.’ Collaboration between three means deeper societal dialogue and involves a complete shift from the usual opposition stance between a market-oriented and a government-centered logics. The greatest global shift and ongoing challenge we are entering is one in which civil society struggles to find its voice and its specific contribution vis-a-vis the other two sectors. This means that governance (through the collaboration of the three sectors) will be more encompassing than government; government will only be a voice at the table, not the final referee. At the present historical moment the new role of government bodies presents various challenges to globally operating networks. For an example of successful cross-sector partnership, see: Iisaak and sustainable forestry in British Columbia Central Coast.


Three Social Innovations 

Confronting globalization in an unpredictable world requires bringing together the highest variety of actors, and organizational styles at the scale of large, often global networks, and their way of working has evolved in myriad new ways. Waddell gives us a clear understanding of the societal change systems that are now able to bring life into large scale change. These are recognized as: social innovation labs, communities of practice (CoP) and global action networks (GANs). “The labs are spaces for experimenting; the CoPs are for building capacity; and the GANs (or the regional action networks) are for widespread sharing and adapting. They might be organized separately with only loose ties or more closely share an identity as one network. They are actors in societal change systems [SCS]. If there were an SCS Steward, it would organize events to support them in developing SCS coherence and effectiveness.”

With labs, CoPs and GANs we are starting to recognize again three important facets: the highly interactive experimenting and prototyping at the level of the labs, the flexible collaborative learning and its dissemination at the level of CoPs, and concerted action at the level of GANs. All of these are very adaptable and evolving organizational forms. And the ability to remain flexible is paramount to their capacity to sense and respond rather than resort to traditional planning.

A Call to Change

To conclude let’s look at what constitutes the commonalities of this societal transformation and what is required from those who want to embark on it:

  • organizing as something more important than organizational structures since forms must be able to evolve even into unforeseen directions
  • leadership as stewardship
  • fostering of networking/partnerships
  • actively embracing diversity
  • promoting quality communication tools and processes
  • integrating levels of action conditioned by various geographic and jurisdictional boundaries
  • a continued emphasis on learning and adapting from experience
  • variety of ways to connect the same organizations in a network
  • ability to stimulate leadership at all levels.

Full participation through effective processes is more important than membership, because of the absence of traditional incentive structures. And the leader himself is partly a facilitator but most of all a steward. Waddell proposes in fact a “Council of Stewards” as a substitute to the Board of Directors of traditional organizations.  

In short the large systems change upon which new forms of governance could naturally emerge requires changes in our ways of seeing, operating in the world, and expressing leadership qualities.

 

 

 

Large Systems Change through multi-stakeholder, multi- sector, and multi-scale governance networks

October 11, 2017

                  

Cover-front only

 Steve Waddell’s book Change for the Audacious: A Doer’s Guide to Large Systems Change for Flourishing Futures reads like a thorough introduction to the emerging reality of Large Systems Change through multi-stakeholder, multi-sector, and multi-scale governance networks. This book will allow you to acquire an understanding of an emerging reality that may defy your immediate level of experience. It will give you an idea of how to contribute to the paradigm shift that is quietly appearing behind and between the present structures of power. It will serve us here as an introduction to a number of key ideas and practices.

 

Waddell’s book performs an enormous synthesis and covers a very wide and complex field of evolving reality, which it renders more understandable. It is also very detailed in the nuts and bolts of emergent transformation: what are its domains, its new evolving forms, the tools that it uses and, most of all, the individual and organizational transformations that it requires from those involved in its realization. From the start, one element stands out: much of the global transformation work comes from working with inter-organizational networks freely converging and loosely associating with the goal of moving the system to which they belong in new directions. An example: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wants to move all stakeholders in the “forest and forest-product system” in a direction that supports sustainable forestry practices. This includes forest companies, manufacturers of forest products, retailers of those products, environmentalists, the forest communities, consumers, financiers and others.

What are Networks

Defining networks is a critical task since they tend to be confused with loose informal associations of many kinds, or with inter-organizational partnerships. Given the diffuse reality, and loose nature of agreements subscribed to in networks, only the enthusiasm of deep connection, shared vision, extreme flexibility and widespread leadership can work in the absence of the more usual command and control carrots and sticks.

Four Stages of Change

Waddell’s approach is one of constant both/and; of recognizing that various levels of reality must be considered and integrated – even those with which we may not have natural affinity. The various stages of change are listed as incremental change (variations within a given context); reform (breakthroughs obtained through activism and political action) and transformation, the latter coinciding with Otto Scharmer’s “listening to the future that wants to emerge.” The third of these is the crux of the whole book, though incremental change and reform are integrated. The science for those has already been extensively developed.

Two other building blocks are essential and are added gradually. The first is defining one of four contexts: simple, complicated, complex, chaotic

We can distinguish: “simple” realities of the kind that we can sense, categorize and respond to with best practices. The “complicated” level of reality that can be thoroughly analyzed, as in the case of some piece of sophisticated machinery, and addressed with sets of strategies. Transformation deals with the next two levels. In the “complex” systems we cannot predict how parts will interact with each other and interactions are non-linear; it is not  possible to discern root causes or act from single control mechanisms. Finally, “chaotic” situations (e.g., emerging after natural or manmade disasters) can be approached through the parts that respond as complicated systems, then resort to the approach of complex systems, outlined above.

2A Figure - CynfinTo enter transformational pathways we need to operate away from the control and command paradigm to one of “sense and respond”: by foregoing the illusion of predictability; creating multitudes of paths and alternatives we can explore and with which we can experiment; and associating the experiences with rapid cycles of learning that allow to map out further steps.

Creation/Destruction and Collaboration/Confrontation

The book directs us to the next crucial distinction. Societal paradigm change is based on the polarities of creation / destruction and collaboration / confrontation, and the corresponding in between areas: negotiating change, forcing change, supporting change, co-creating change. 5B Figure Strategy QuadrantsYes, the work of emergence is geared towards the inclusion of the greatest diversity, or supporting change, co-creating change. But it doesn’t ignore that some social forces are firmly opposed to change, and that they will only come to the table when their power will be diminished. Thus, at the level of networks all strategies need to be included. The part of the global change agent lies in offering highly differentiated approaches. Because creation of the new implies the destruction of the old, there is a place here both for the new tools of emergence and for the activism with which we are most familiar.. And the two stances work best together.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

The change strategies are then immersed in the reality of the three sectors—state, market and civil society—and what is now known as cross-sector collaboration.           Three Sectors Waddell 1This integration of perspectives rests on the need to honor the specific perspective of each sector. It has to resort to the highest possible participatory processes and deliberations because of the challenges inherent in harmonizing such diverse perspectives. The three sectors are one-sided and their collaboration is necessary in order to apprehend and integrate all aspects of the social reality, in order to ‘rebalance society.’ Collaboration between three means deeper societal dialogue and involves a complete shift from the usual opposition stance between a market-oriented and a government-centered logics. The greatest global shift and ongoing challenge we are entering is one in which civil society struggles to find its voice and its specific contribution vis-a-vis the other two sectors. This means that governance (through the collaboration of the three sectors) will be more encompassing than government; government will only be a voice at the table, not the final referee. At the present historical moment the new role of government bodies presents various challenges to globally operating networks. For an example of successful cross-sector partnership, see: Iisaak and sustainable forestry in British Columbia Central Coast.

Three Social Innovations 

Confronting globalization in an unpredictable world requires bringing together the highest variety of actors, and organizational styles at the scale of large, often global networks, and their way of working has evolved in myriad new ways. Waddell gives us a clear understanding of the societal change systems that are now able to bring life into large scale change. These are recognized as: social innovation labs, communities of practice (CoP) and global action networks (GANs). “The labs are spaces for experimenting; the CoPs are for building capacity; and the GANs (or the regional action networks) are for widespread sharing and adapting. They might be organized separately with only loose ties or more closely share an identity as one network. They are actors in societal change systems [SCS]. If there were an SCS Steward, it would organize events to support them in developing SCS coherence and effectiveness.”

With labs, CoPs and GANs we are starting to recognize again three important facets: the highly interactive experimenting and prototyping at the level of the labs, the flexible collaborative learning and its dissemination at the level of CoPs, and concerted action at the level of GANs. All of these are very adaptable and evolving organizational forms. And the ability to remain flexible is paramount to their capacity to sense and respond rather than resort to traditional planning.

A Call to Change

To conclude let’s look at what constitutes the commonalities of this societal transformation and what is required from those who want to embark on it:

  • organizing as something more important than organizational structures since forms must be able to evolve even into unforeseen directions
  • leadership as stewardship
  • fostering of networking/partnerships
  • actively embracing diversity
  • promoting quality communication tools and processes
  • integrating levels of action conditioned by various geographic and jurisdictional boundaries
  • a continued emphasis on learning and adapting from experience
  • variety of ways to connect the same organizations in a network
  • ability to stimulate leadership at all levels.

Full participation through effective processes is more important than membership, because of the absence of traditional incentive structures. And the leader himself is partly a facilitator but most of all a steward. Waddell proposes in fact a “Council of Stewards” as a substitute to the Board of Directors of traditional organizations.  

In short the large systems change upon which new forms of governance could naturally emerge requires changes in our ways of seeing, operating in the world, and expressing leadership qualities.

 

Aztec and Iroquois: Myth, Rituals and Political Models

November 11, 2013

 

Iroquois Longhouse

The unity of the Iroquois League comes about in a first step through Hiawatha’s repentance of his deeds, mediated by Deganawidah. In this experience he beholds the reflection of Deganawidah’s face in the water, believing it is his own. Struck by the beauty of its features, he realizes his shortcomings, particularly his cannibalistic habits, and consciously decides to repair all evil done. He will later embark on the odyssey of taking on the redemption of his people. This will require of him a great willingness for self-sacrifice, especially after the death of his wife and daughters at the hand of Atotarho’s magic. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Nations and Aztecs: Prefiguring Modern Political Models

November 5, 2013

 

The Five Nations  1The Modern Age began in the 15th – 16th centuries. This meant, among other things, the awakening of the scientific frame of mind so well represented in Europe by the achievements of the Renaissance. This was also the time that opened up the “discovery” and colonization of the New World. America did not experience the great change of consciousness in the way it occurred in Europe. Rather, the American genius prefigures the deeper essence of progressive and decadent modern political regimes. The two social alternatives that symbolize this watershed in North America gave birth to social structures and “social rituals.” Their nature differs diametrically.
Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Deliberative Councils: Revolution for a New Democracy

October 27, 2013

Creating the capacity for public wisdom in twenty-first century America is no greater challenge that that faced by our country’s original Founders. But this is our task, our calling. We are the revolutionary founders of this new democracy, a democracy that will have an impact at least as great, and probably greater, than the impact their revolution had on the world almost 250 years ago.

—Tom Atlee (Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics)

Multiracial Hands Making a Circle TogetherCitizen Deliberative Councils (see previous blog) convene a small group of very diverse citizens, a cross-section of all stakeholder groups, selected in a statistically significant random fashion; and they hold conversations and deliberations through tested methods of facilitation. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting “We The People” Back into Politics

October 8, 2013

Empowering Public WisdomA remarkable 2013 book has not received the attention it truly deserves: Tom Atlee’s Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics. It offers great tips for a political paradigm shift.

We live in times of increasingly complex issues, now dubbed by experts “wicked problems,” which are difficult to encompass in their totality. And wicked problems, added to each other, spell out the conditions for systemic collapse. We need to take decisions that encompass the wisdom of the greatest variety of inputs. So, we could argue for more direct forms of democracy. But involving from thousands to millions of people in deliberation actually reduces the likelihood of wise outcomes because of difficulties in facilitating the process, offering equal access to information, gathering the results, and so forth. Read the rest of this entry »

Sekem: an Economy of Love in the Egyptian Desert

May 5, 2012

A Life and a Vision

Ibrahim Abouleish knew ever since finishing school, that he could do something for his country. “I will build factories where the people can work…. I will build workshops for women and girls…. I will build a large theater…” is what he wrote to his father after graduating from high school, just before leaving Egypt for Austria. (See book Sekem a Sustainable Community in the Egyptian Desert) The vision took him first to Europe to acquire a broad education, become a chemical engineer of high reputation and a doctor. When he finally returned to Egypt at age forty, he decided he was willing to sacrifice his past of success to start farming on marginal desert land, figuring that if it could be done there it could be replicated everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Bridges in the Middle East: the Work of Just Vision

July 25, 2011

Israel’s policy of aggression and annexation toward the West Bank is acknowledged not only by Palestinians but by a growing segment of the Israeli population who sees the present measures as an obstacle against medium and long term interests of all. An example: the wall built to protect Israel’s borders. Sections of it were planned inside Palestinian territories, not along the so-called “Green Line” of 1967. The village of Budrus would have been cut off from the rest of the West Bank, in fact even enclosed between two walls, and farmers would have seen part of their olive trees uprooted, and lost access to some of their land. The wall would have run close to their school and cemetery. Nonviolent resistance allowed it otherwise.

Beyond political concerns, nonviolent responses are creating a healthy response to the growing spiral of hate. Another paradigm needs to emerge. Otherwise more and more oppressive measures will rise. See anti-boycott laws just approved by the Knesset. Read the rest of this entry »

African Women for Peace: Liberia

June 3, 2011


I have finished viewing the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell,  a powerful retelling of how women, armed of the sole desire for peace, ended the civil war in Liberia and brought to power the first woman president in Africa in 2005. A great message of hope in what appears to be a simple approach to turning the worse of conditions on their head; simple yes, but not easy. The difference between success and defeat lie in the internal resources tapped into; in qualities like forgiveness, hope and fierce and indomitable determination.

The women of Liberia, in a 2 and ½ year campaign have forced the armies of dictator Taylor and those of the opposing warlords to come to the peace table, and helped to send the tyrant to exile, set up an interim government, and hold free and fair elections.  Read the rest of this entry »

Conscious Living, Conscious Dying and Community Building

April 8, 2011

Counter to our mainstream culture that sees the end  of life as  tragic for all involved, the documentary The Most Excellent Dying of Jack Heckelman is about creating culture – moreover a it is an example of  a future culture, showing life can be lived fully to the last. I challenge anybody who sees this movie to find any trace of pessimism or moroseness.

“I have seldom seen a film that captures so sensitively, and with such honesty and hope the life of someone so loved and loving.” Jonathan Stedall (documentary film producer of the films of the lives of Ghandi, Jung, van der Post)

Read the rest of this entry »