A new leadership imperative: Corporate social responsibility | McKinsey

[Like a dinosaur lumbering behind the mammals, McKinsey are here to let us know that #systemschange may have officially jumped the shark…]


A new leadership imperative is emerging based on corporate social responsibility. It will require greater transparency on social and environmental issues and empathetic executives who can speak to deeper human needs while instilling greater meaning in their business models.

Source: A new leadership imperative: Corporate social responsibility | McKinsey

Systems practices — what might these be? – Anna Birney, School of System Change – Medium


Source: Systems practices — what might these be? – School of System Change – Medium

Systems practices — what might these be?

Anna Birney
Anna Birney
Oct 4 · 5 min read

At the School of System Change we support people to navigate multiple approaches, tools and methods for systems change, because we believe there are many ways to do this work. Regularly, we are asked “How do you know whether what we are doing is systemic?”. Through our programmes we work with and draw on a wealth of practitioners across this emerging field. What we started to notice was a set of “systemic practices” that we think are at work across multiple approaches and tools practitioners use. Currently there are ten (a few more have joined the family since an earlier rendition we called The ways of a systems thinker — and there are, of course more). They come in no particular order. Below we offer a couple of short paragraphs of elucidation — drawing on some of the theory behind these practices. We would welcome feedback to help evolve these to the next level!

These systemic practices have collaboratively curated, in particular with Jennifer Berman, Anna Warrington, Laura Winn and myself.


  • Enable the system to see itself, hold the whole picture
  • Work at different levels concurrently
  • Identify connections and how parts interact
  • Engage different perspectives
  • Understand agency, power, and responsibility
  • Work with activating and resisting forces
  • Consider different timescales and consequences over time
  • Understand patterns to make effective interventions
  • Embrace complexity, constantly learning and adapting
  • Constantly question assumptions

School of System Change

We are equipping people with the capabilities to lead system change initiatives addressing complex sustainability challenges. The School offers flexible access to the best learning experiences, tools, case studies from the field, while growing the community of practice.

Anna Birney


Cultivating #systemschange | Director @forum4thefuture | Launching School of System Change | Passion #inquiry #livingsystems #livingchange

School of System Change

School of System Change

We are equipping people with the capabilities to lead system change initiatives addressing complex sustainability challenges. The School offers flexible access to the best learning experiences, tools, case studies from the field, while growing the community of practice.

Continues – and comment and clap – in source: Systems practices — what might these be? – School of System Change – Medium



James Kay: An ecosystem approach

I’m following a set of David Ing-originated rabbit-holes this afternoon, though I’m running out of time for now – this is from the archive of James Kay’s site.

I must say, this and the other relevant diagrams are strikingly similar to my own thinking about using the viable systems model in #systemschange – which I think just shows some irreducible principle, which were a lot more obvious in 2018 than before Jame Kay passed away in 2004, partly thanks to his efforts.

Tribute to James Kay here: http://www.postnormaltimes.net/wpblog/a-tribute-to-james-kay/


Also, I can’t find a full text open copy of  An ecosystem approach for sustainability: Addressing the challenge of complexity


  • September 1999
  • Futures 31(7):721-742
  • DOI: 10.1016/S0016-3287(99)00029-4
The dynamics of ecosystems and human systems need to be addressed in the context of post-normal science grounded in complex systems thinking. We portray these systems as Self-Organizing Holarchic Open (SOHO) systems and interpret their behaviours and structures with reference to non-equilibrium thermodynamics: holons, propensities and canons; and information and attractors. Given the phenomena exhibited by SOHO systems, conventional science approaches to modelling and forecasting are inappropriate, as are prevailing explanations in terms of linear causality and stochastic properties. Instead, narratives in the form of scenarios to depict morphogenetic causal loops, autocatalysis, and multiple possible pathways for development need to be considered. Short examples are given. We also link SOHO system descriptions to issues of human preferences and choices concerning the preferred attributes of particular SOHO systems, and to the implications for achieving them through adaptive management, monitoring and appropriate structures for governance. A heuristic framework to guide reasoning for this is presented, and reiterative steps for applying it are identified. In this way we provide a coherent conceptual basis, in the workings of both natural systems and decision systems, for the practice of post-normal science.







Source: James Kay: An ecosystem approach

An adaptive Self Organizing Holarchic Open (SOHO) Systems approach to Ecosystem Sustainability and Health
Reference: Kay. J., Regier, H., Boyle, M. and Francis, G. 1999. “An Ecosystem Approach for Sustainability: Addressing the Challenge of Complexity” Futures Vol 31, #7, Sept. 1999, pp.721-742.





The diagram illustrates the necessity to integrate the biophysical sciences and the social sciences to generate an ecosystem description of the biophysical and socio-economic-political situation. This is used to formulate feasible and desirable futures, one of which is chosen to promote. It is then necessary to design a collaborative learning process for the ongoing adaptive process of governance, management, and monitoring for sustainability.


Descriptions of related methodologies:

In the second chapter of his Ph.D thesis, Martin Bunch reviews adaptive management, the ecosystem approach and soft systems thinking. He developed an alternative version of the diamond diagram which is quite popular.
Bunch, Martin An Adaptive Ecosystem Approach to Rehabilitation and Management of the Cooum River Environmental System in Chennai, India Ph.D., Environmental Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, 2000

Beth Dempster, one of my Ph.D. students, has also developed another version of this diagram which she discusses on her WWW site.

Another variation on this theme, the AMESH diagram, is discussed in: Waltner-Toews D., Kay, J., Murray, T., 2001. “Adaptive Methodology for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health (AMESH): An Introduction”. In Gerald Midgley & Alejandro E. Ochoa-Arias (Eds.) Community Operational Research: Systems Thinking For Community Development, Plenum Press.

An even simpler version .

Top Inspiration, Events and News on Systems Change – The Systems Studio

…excellent stuff from the always excellent Systems Studio.

Subscribe for yourself at http://thesystemstudio.com/our-publications


Source: Top Inspiration, Events and News on Systems Change


Top Inspiration, Events and News on Systems Change – systems studio February newsletter

The always-brilliant systems studio newsletter. I’ll post some of the key contents separately (and already have posted some) – but I always think this is worth sharing alone.

Source: Top Inspiration, Events and News on Systems Change


Are you an ally of #systemschange? let me know here

In the late spring I was lucky enough to get involved in an international event on ‘supporting the field of #systemschange’. I will circulate a summary when it’s signed off.
We are currently connecting – with zero obligation – simple contact details of people who are ‘allies’ for systems change – which you might be, if you are reading this.
If you’re willing to share – to be asked by the group if you want to join – please let me have some basic details:
contact info (email, phone)
brief description of interest and/or contribution to the field
Benjamin Taylor



Lankelly Chase | Systems Change: A guide to what it is and how to do it

Academy for systems change: https://www.academyforchange.org/new-online-resources-leaders-systems-change/

NPC: https://www.thinknpc.org/themes/discover-ideas-and-approaches/systems-change/

Anna Birney of the School for Systems Change: https://medium.com/school-of-system-change/what-is-systems-change-an-outcome-and-process-f86126c8cb65

a bit more about this Systems Community of Inquiry and what’s posted here and what isn’t

My recent request (‘is anyone reading this’ – https://stream.syscoi.com/2018/08/17/quick-check-here-is-anyone-reading-this/) was posted on here and on the various social media I use. I got some good responses and thought now was a good time to provide a bit more info about my own sources and approach. More information about the site is at the bottom of this post.

I am obsessively interested in #systemsthinking, #systemschange, #systemleadership (and #systemsleadership) and all variations thereof. My sources come from google alerts, nuzzel.com, twitter, the LinkedIn systems thinking network (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/2639211 – though not systematically monitored), the systems thinking facebook groups at https://www.facebook.com/groups/774241602654986 and https://www.facebook.com/groups/2391509563, and also quite often from podcasts https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vRh25RO40r8LK4psqqGWfMAJOAFh5nyc3-UOx34-8GQ and many other email newsletters which I am signed up to. You’ll see many posts from complexity digest and from the systems studio newsletter – https://comdig.unam.mx/ and http://thesystemstudio.com

Laziness rules with my posting – I use the ‘press this’ wordpress applet to connect pages and content to wordpress for posting, put as much information and acknowledgement as I have time to do, then use www.bufferapp.com to send them out through my linkedin and twitter feeds and the facebook groups. I no longer post to LinkedIn groups or my facebook profiles, as those social media saw fit to take away this functionality (the sort of reason why we moved this content here). Our twitter account at twitter.com/syscoi automatically tweets out each story.

I tend to be very inclusive, adding any systems thinking content I find that seems to have real content (that I can understand). There isn’t much I filter out – probably only the Derek Cabrera stuff, which is well covered elsewhere and with which I have some disagreements, the wilder shores of some ‘living systems’ stuff without any real content, the most technical complexity modelling stuff, and anything (that seems to me to be) utterly bonkers or incomprehensible, or repeat material without any real new content.

The intent is to put anything potentially useful here – for my part, this site is about making this contribution which I am in a position to do, and having it available openly. Anyone can curate, tag, comment, and add other content at any time, and everything is open an accessible.

More about the systems community of inquiry:

This site is partly a descendant of model.report – you can see more of the history in this long post: https://stream.syscoi.com/2018/01/31/compendium-of-all-the-systems-thinking-links-january-2018/)
(Model report archive now hosted here at: https://syscoi.com/model.report/model.report/newest.html (not all functionality works there)).

This site exists for anyone anywhere to post anything systems-thinking related and for anyone with the interest to read, share, and comment. To follow, enter your email or click to follow with wordpress on the right. To contribute, click ‘become a contributor’ above – you will need to register with wordpress.

More information is available at:


Quick check here – is anyone reading this?

I am pretty comfortable with being an outlying example of the 1% rule (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1%25_rule_(Internet_culture)), but it is nice to know there’s someone out there?
Linda Booth-Sweeney was always my check and confirmation over at model.report 😀

AND REMEMBER – *anyone* can +BECOME A CONTRIBUTOR+ – just sign up in the top bar here and you can post anything systems-related…



Resources on systems: Toolkits & Practice Guides – rachel sinha – Medium

Resources on systems: Toolkits & Practice Guides

Ok you’re committed to taking a systemic approach, now what?

I’ll tell you what — Total Overwhelm — as you Google it and try and work out where on earth to start.

The good news is there’s been some brilliant collating of tools, frameworks and practice guides for systems change over the last two years.

To make this simple, I’ve looked back through my newsletter content for the last year and condensed this down to the best.

My newsletter is designed to share resources across the field of systems change, so if you want to keep abreast of developments, check it out and sign up. I know everyone hates newsletters, but if you’re interested in systems change, this one is seriously simple and useful.

If you have great resources I’m missing, get in touch (rachel@thesystemstudio.com). And if you missed my blog last month on communicating systems change, you can check this out here.

Systems Toolkits

Toolkit: From the Academy for Systems Change. Taking you through tools for systems leadership, developing a system-wise team, building organizational capacity and engaging stakeholders for systems change. Systems Leaders Fieldbook.

Toolkit: Great list of systems tools and resources, designed for grantmakers, but could be used by anyone. Developed by Geofunders, Systems Grant-making Resource Guide.

Practice Guide: Another useful collection of tools for systemic design from Alberta CoLab, Field Guide to Systems Design.

Practice Guide: Specifically for Innovation Labs, (often used in systems change) Social Innovation Lab Guide from The Waterloo Institute of Social Innovation and Resilience.

Collaboration and community building

Framework: How can we help people create more meaningful communities? This tool is great from Community Canvas.

Toolkit: Nice toolkit from Ashoka on Forming innovative alliances

Systems change for campaigners, activist and organizers

Toolkit: I really, really love this toolkit from the NEON network learn everything from effective campaign strategies for systems change, to building your systems leadership

Measuring systems change

Resource List: Systems change evaluation resources list, from the helpful people at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

sources on systems: Toolkits & Practice Guides – rachel sinha – Medium