The School of System Change Launches in London

Back in February I attended opening days of the School of System Change, a cross-cultural gathering orchestrated by Forum for the Future in London.

Here are some of the notes that I scribbled down during opening days:

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The world is a system that is constantly changing. Through storytelling, we can co-create what is needed to address complex challenges. Stories are a map for understanding the world, a microcosm of what’s happening in the larger whole.

The goal of the School of System Change is to build a community of people practicing those skills. We are alive and part of this ecology, this system.

What is the shape / thread / wave of your life? What is the context? Life is change, is motion.

If you frame things too quickly, it becomes your prison.

Sin crisis no hay crecimiento.

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Walking away from the thing often means circling back to it. Challenge your own story. Create a structure, a framework, but recognize when you’re holding onto old stories, and have the strength to let them go.

What is the story that you always tell yourself about your life? What happens when you let that story go, and tell another story?

storiesaredoors

We can understand ourselves as agents of change. There are many roles.

(At the moment my role is Connector / Amplifier / Disruptpr / Archivist. I move between).

We can look at change through the lens of relationships. Working smarter means getting out of our silos.

People don’t like change. People fear change. To admit that your theory is wrong is really hard.

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London is dense with layers of time.

Become cunning. Bring others in. Give them the opportunity to become part of the change. Rather than telling them something, bring them on board.

System change is about partnerships. How can we create spaces where those relationships are built? People are very busy. We need to find spaces to step out of  busy-ness and reflect.

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#resist together (Paris)

The Latin root of the word “conversation” means “to turn together. Human communication is a dance ritual.

We live in language. Language is a place. You’re a different person in a different language.

Find the part of the system that you can twang. Seek a journey for maximum wobble.

The future is a figment. It doesn’t exist. The future is a product of the present.

Institutions aren’t immutable. They can be redesigned and reinvented. Think for the long-arc, the 100-200 year future.

Leadership in systems change requires that we have:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Courage (to look deeply at ourselves & our strengths and weaknesses / biases; to know them; to listen to others).
  3. Joy (because it’s hard to overcome the barrier of time and attention)
  4. A group of people who believe in the need to change and define the problem together.
  5. Fail fast. Fail forward.

What does your ideal future look like, feel like, etc.?

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textures of home, other side of the pond

How do we get people who have the power to change the system involved in system change?

We must have the patience to listen and seek to understand perspectives that are different than our own.

A map is a tool. A systems diagram embodies structure and causation.

What is the behavior in the system that we want to change?

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You don’t create systems change. You create the conditions for it. Do the thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect the right outcome.

Keep options open. Do stuff and see what happens. Then re-frame your strategy, noticing things that were completely outside of your strategy that work well.

What is the underlying assumption of the system?

Everything is in a state of flux. Things are always in the process of becoming, just as a murmuration of birds flows and shifts.

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Image via alain delorme

Tensions make life rich. We have to deal with tensions that can’t be resolved. Unsolvable tension is, sometimes, good.

Things emerge when something changes that suits the local conditions.

Embracing complexity means embracing that the world is more systemic and emergent than we’d like to think it is.

~

Here is some audio I recorded from other participants on their thoughts on Basecamp’s opening days.

How Do You Say Goodbye to a City?

I’m counting down the days until I leave this city: 20. No one told me that college would be the easy bit. Life since May 29th’s Commencement Ceremony has been evolving at breakneck pace. New routines, all of them temporary. I have to check myself from missing the person that I was, have to remind myself that growing is pain and confusion. It takes courage to leave relationships and places and things that no longer fit. Learning to welcome uncertainty is always a challenge.

Since May I moved out of a vibrant community of 32 undergrads who lived and cooked and cleaned together into a sterile single off of a hallway. My relationship with my significant other of a year fell apart. We grew apart. I helped raise a garden that keeps coughing out copious amounts of zucchini. I joined the November Project. I biked to the farthest corners of a city. I wrote postcards in all-caps to states I have never visited. I made sun tea in my orange Nalgene. I taught some thirty kids how to row. I got a cartilage piercing. All this while piecing flights together and calling up friends of friends who have visited Fiji, the place I will fly come October.

Now that I am into my last days in Boston I want to ask: how do you say goodbye? Most of what I love about the city has taken a different shape: the friends I once lived with have apartments and jobs elsewhere, the person I loved and I no longer speak, the community of rowers and co-opers and Folklore & Mythology concentrators I drew strength and inspiration from will, in all likelihood, never again be in the same place. There’s not a course catalog for this next step. I won’t be shopping classes. The Boston skyline at night is still arresting. How do you say goodbye?