When Kevin Jones asked me to “unload” what I am noticing in the field of systemic transformation to a radically better world, I realized that doing it for a broad audience will be quite a challenge. With so much information that is never complete and always changing, it is hard to settle with a particular overview, but let me try.
My best take on this task is to highlight people, initiatives, and themes based on how relevant they are to the specific work I am doing with the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership and on how likely they are to make a significant difference for the field of systemic change in 2019. For example, as the registration deadline for the workshop on Using Entrepreneurial Ventures to Transform Social Realities is fast approaching, the exciting and pivotal news from our friends at the Melbourne Business School Asia Pacific Social Impact Centre and the OCAD University of Toronto Strategic Innovation Lab come to mind before anything else.
UPD: More on this in the post about #BubbleSharing & BubbleSurfing
Given that I want to keep this post under 2500 words, this approach means that many emerging initiatives I really like are not mentioned simply because they are too far from my most current practice or they are too context-specific to appeal to a broad audience of evolutionary change makers. This also means that many mature initiatives, dear mentors, and timeless classics are not mentioned here because their steady influence has been known and appreciated for years. In addition to these limitations, the format of a public post does not allow me to share insights I know from unpublished research and internal meetings of advisory boards, organizing committees, etc.—some of these insights are much more important than what I can write here.
Of course, it goes without saying that regardless of all the above limitations, there are a gazillion things of local and global significance that I simply do not know about. Still, as I find it very useful to sense the field through the eyes of my fellow practitioners, I hope this very subjective overview will be of service to at least some of the change makers out there.
How to Read This Post
Here is one way to engage with this post: as you glance through it, filter out what you already know and what does not seem interesting, take note of what you can immediately learn without doing additional research, identify what looks intriguing but needs more research (this is what all the hyperlinks are for), and sit with anything that triggers you or contradicts your views or knowledge to understand it from different perspectives.
I also invite you to think about what themes and references you would add or argue with based on your perspective and share them in the comments, in your own post, or with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some General Themes
This past year feels like a breakthrough in quite a few areas that have been brewing for a while but really accelerated in 2018. The Regenerative Movement “hitting the mainstream” (as diligently summarized by Dr. Daniel Christian Wahl in this report) and systemic change language becoming more and more eagerly adopted by renowned social innovation brands like Ashoka and OpenIDEO are pretty refreshing trends.
UN Sustainable Development Goals finally infiltrating all kinds of organizations and communities after a couple of years of relatively little traction (a fun task for the reader: look around and find two radically different groups or entities engaging with the SDGs) is now hard to ignore. The sense of urgency related to our global challenges seems to also be getting momentum.
A massive number of change networks feeling the urge to form meta-networks (here is a collective narrative on cross-network and in-network learning we harvested together with Dr. Beatrice Ungard from Regenesis and Stuart Cowan from Capital Institute at the ReGen18 conference organized by Kevin Jones and Marc Barasch) is among very strong themes this year.
Once again, I am not speaking on behalf of the field-at-large, but simply naming what is the most present for me in my current context with the hope that it might add or reinforce some insight.
Books, Podcasts, and Blogs
I generally do not include newly discovered books, podcasts, and blogs in this post (there are just too many awesome ones!), but I cannot resist mentioning The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows, and Natural Being by Jed Emerson providing a powerful perspective on ways to transform some of our most critical systems of influence, Dialogue Lab podcast by our Evolutionary Leadership Community member Reva Patwardhan that focuses on the emotional labor of the change work, and Dr. Daniel Christian Wahl’s blog on Medium that offers a admirably grounded, broadly knowledgeable, and timely view that bridges the gap between theory and practice in systemic transformation.
Mansi Kakkar also deserves a special mention as a rising star of the regenerative and evolutionary work who has a stunningly deep insight into key creative tensions on the frontier of our field. Daniel and Mansi are likely to be on a panel together at one of the Commonwealth Club of California events curated by our Evolutionary Leadership Fellow and Evolutionary Leadership Community member Elizabeth Carney next year.
Understanding Entrepreneurship For Systemic Change
Dr. Krzysztof Dembek and his colleagues published their groundbreaking articles on Creating value for multiple stakeholders: Sustainable business models at the Base of the Pyramid in the Journal of Cleaner Production and ‘Business Unusual’: Building BoP 3.0 in the Journal of Business Ethics last summer. These scholarly articles introduce the concept of “reorganizing business models” that can actually create conscious systemic change in local communities. A lot of features of these business models are radically different from what is considered normal in social entrepreneurship: “complicated structural design” with “many supporting structures or patterns”, “high level of change and temporality”, and so on. The second of the two articles also presents a process of developing such models in practice.
The significance of these articles is in the reconciliation of rigorous entrepreneurship scholarship, the practice of place-based systemic change, and greater field of glocal systemic change work towards the Great Transition to a just, sustainable, and flourishing future. When we invited Dr. Dembek & Dr. York to the Bay Area two years ago, they shared the results of this research which we have been using ever since, but the articles were not publicly accessible before they were published earlier this year. Now there is no excuse for social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and supporting organizations who know about this groundbreaking research to ignore its most significant findings.
Reshaping Business Modeling Conventions
Another development that I am excited about is the evolution of the Strongly Sustainable Business Models / Lean for Flourishing initiatives since An Ontology for Strongly Sustainable Business Models: Defining an Enterprise Framework Compatible With Natural and Social Science by Antony Upward and Dr. Peter Jones from OCAD University of Toronto Strategic Innovation Lab was published in the Organization & Environment in 2015. The Flourishing Business Model Canvas that Antony, Peter, and their colleagues have been working on with the support of over a hundred of “first explorers” (including us at the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership) is now ready for broad use.
A reasonably complicated framework with 16 buckets instead of 9 that most of us are used to, it covers critical elements and relationships of the systemic context and, if used right, is a great design tool for systemic change. Most importantly, the systemic approach embedded in the canvas pushes entrepreneurs, consultants, and instructors to reconsider business modeling conventions that are incompatible with systemic change.
Technically there will still be some time when one would need to become a “first explorer” to try the tool, but some fundamental processes are now in motion and the future of the canvas is already here even though it is not quite visible from a distance yet. As a member of our Evolutionary Leadership Community, Antony plans to visit the Bay Area in April 2019 to meet local “first explorers” and share his teachings with his fellow evolutionaries.
New Paradigm Funding Prototype Going Global
Thriving Resilient Communities Collaboratory (TRCC) stewarded by Dr. Leslie Meehan and Ben Roberts if finally exploring cross-Atlantic collaboration.
As a very successful prototype of an institutional structure and a culture that brings the power of funding decisions down to organizations and groups actually doing systemic work on the ground while catalyzing collaboration and peer learning, so far TRCC has been focusing almost exclusively on the United States.
This year, however, this seems to be shifting. With Nenad Maljković forming the Cross-Atlantic Collaboration Circle, I see some old and new friends from outside the US engaging with the TRCC to learn from and participate in this very effective and authentic funding & practice community.
As a long-time organizational member of the TRCC, this year we got some Co-Lab funding to support our Evolutionary Leadership Community member Manuela Bosch and her cross-Atlantic initiative Collaboration Incubator and I hope that we’ll see more internationalization of the TRCC in the near future.
Place-Based Innovation From Pioneers Of Social Capital
Bert-Ola Bergstrand, Michael Sillion, and Karl McFaul have joined forces under the name of Future Navigators to come up with a place-based innovation model. This work is just coming out of the nascent stage but those of us who has been appreciating the ‘magic’ of the #Open #Random #Supportive Impact Journey and #ImpactPlayGround and witnessed hundreds or thousands of impact-related international connections, dozens of friendships and partnerships, and some major success stories like Regen Villages over these years can’t wait to see reports from Future Navigators’ pilots in Norway and Sweden next year. As an Evolutionary Leadership Fellow and a very active member of the Evolutionary Leadership Community, Michael Sillion is working with us to leverage our methodologies as Future Navigators take shape.
Radically Simple Communication Protocol Getting Steam Across the World
WorldShift is a radically simple communication protocol for change makers. It was developed in Japan and has recently spread around the globe. There are many applications of this protocol: it can be a personal reflection practice, a networking and sensing tool, a way to track individual or collective changes over time, and so on. Since we discovered this protocol earlier this year, we have been using it to communicate about the initiatives of the Evolutionary Future Challenge finalists, set the context for the Evolutionary Leadership Intensive in October, and in many other settings.
Cross-Network Learning & Collaboration
WEALL is a very inspiring example of an emerging meta-network that has B Corps, Capital Institute, Presencing Institute, REconomy Practitioners, Tellus Institute, the Next System Project among 30+ org members. These wonderful people—over 700 of them—are gathering in Malaga Spain in April, 2019 for the NESI (New Economy and Social Innovation) Global Forum 2019 Forum hosted by WEALL.
Around this time, acclaimed Tomorrow Makers are planning to have their pilot DesignShop in Turin, Italy. We all are looking for official updates from Bloom Network (as a member of their Advisory Board I am watching that very closely) about their Pollination: The Annual Gathering of Regenerative Culture in San Francisco.
Other organizations and initiatives to watch for cross-network learning and support are Enspiral, Regenerative Communities Network by Capital Institute, the Regenerates Network by Regenesis, Movement Weavers (just a Facebook group and related initiatives so far, but with Ben Roberts excited about it, this is definitely something to watch next year), Impact Journey, and our Evolutionary Leadership Community.
There are quite a few courses and educational initiatives we have been recommending to our Evolutionary Leadership Community members. Besides the classics such as Art of Hosting and u.Lab are among the most interesting and relatively new courses are The Regenerative Practitioners Course by Regenis, Design for Sustainability with Dr. Daniel Christian Wahl by Gaia Education, Transform Capitalism Lab with Dr. C. Otto Scharmer by Presencing Institute (by the way, I will be closely watching what grows out of the SDG Leadership Lab by Julie Arts and Martin Kalungu-Banda of the Presencing Institute and Sarmad Khan of UNDOCO), Capra Course with Dr. Fritjof Capra, Bright Future Now with Dr. Robert Gilman by Context Institute.
The upcoming collaboration between Katapult Accelerator’s Katapult Learning and Ashoka’s Weavers Academy looks very promising. Some more specialized courses include Worldview Intelligence with Kathy Jourdain and Dr. Jerry Nagel, The Leadership Quest with Anneloes Smitsman by EARTHwise Center, and Warm Data course by Nora Bateson. Learning Journey experiments organized by Bert-Ola Bergstrand, Philippe Greier, and others will be very interesting to watch in 2019.
There is quite a few things we are adding to the mix ranging from open enrollment programs and workshops such as Using Entrepreneurial Ventures to Transform Social Realities and the Evolutionary Leadership Intensive to custom sessions like the Systemic/Evolutionary Approach to Social Innovation (ranked top 1-2 session in the Exploring Social Innovation Program by Volunteers in Asia) and full-scale programs such as the Gooddler Social Impact Youth Incubator that we designed for Gooddler Foundation, and, of course, courses developed by members of the Evolutionary Leadership Community.
About The Author
Fyodor is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership—California-based social enterprise that helps individuals, teams, and communities lead systemic transformation towards a more just, sustainable, and flourishing world. As Mentor and Board Member of Oakland’s award-winning cooperative business accelerator Uptima Business Bootcamp, lead curriculum designer for systemic entrepreneurship programs such as Gooddler Social Impact Youth Incubator and the main driving force behind Academy of Management‘s prestigious Entrepreneurship Practice Award Fyodor helps define and promote the role of entrepreneurship in creating a more just, sustainable, and flourishing world.
About The Institute For Evolutionary Leadership
Institute for Evolutionary Leadership (IEL) is a California-based social enterprise that helps individuals, teams, and communities lead systemic transformation towards a more just, sustainable, and flourishing world. Through its educational services, IEL has been enriching, transforming, and co-designing educational programs, fellowships, and incubators with a strong focus on addressing systemic root causes of complex global and local challenges. IEL’s modules have been ranked top 1–2 compared to social innovation modules provided by Stanford D-School, OpenIDEO, and other prominent organizations in the field. Since 2017 IEL hosts annual Evolutionary Future Challenge to support evolutionary initiatives through storytelling, guidance, and peer mentoring.