As the world’s major social and environmental issues intensify, there is increased activity and investment in tackling them. Yet we are not seeing the results we need and, too often, interventions are falling well short of transforming the systems on which we rely. We know change isn’t easy. We also know there’s no one way to do systems change work. That’s why, since 2016, the School of System Change has worked with changemakers to develop their systemic practice. 

Six years on and in line with Forum’s new 2023-2025 strategy, the School has now evolved, and will be operating in partnership with Forum. With more independence, the School is primed to flourish in pursuit of a world where people embrace complexity and address the challenges of our time through new ways of thinking, acting and being.

Here, Laura Winn, Forum for the Future’s Head of the School of System Change, reflects on the School’s journey and evolution.

Now is a time of change and turbulence. Just about everything we care about is struggling to hang on. Wildfires are raging, inequalities are rising, diversity of all life is plummeting, supply chains are fracturing, democracy is fluctuating. 

Yet at the same time we see a world that looks much the same - and this is despite pandemic lockdowns, rising prices, new record temperatures and bubbling tensions. The patterns of our everyday living go on. The oppressed are not more free. Timeframes to avoid climate breakdown draw worryingly near. The fearful perpetuate dangerous myths of separation. Positive transformation doesn’t seem to be afoot, and there is immense frustration amongst our fellow changemakers.

So it’s time to relook at the way we think about and enact change. Collectively, we need to adopt mindsets that work with, rather than against, increasing complexity. We need to seek out frameworks and processes inspired by life, which can support us as we work towards just and regenerative futures.

This is where the School of System Change comes in.

A School to navigate multiple tools for leading change

In the face of increasing recognition that ‘sustainability’ and ‘innovation’ are no longer sufficient framings for the kind of transformational change the world needs, Forum for the Future founded the School of System Change in 2016.

The School champions ‘systems change’, which is about shifting the deeper patterns of our societies by adopting change processes that resonate with complexity and the living world. It’s both a practical way of addressing pressing challenges, and a philosophical journey into changing how we think.

The uniqueness of the School comes from our multi-method approach, recognising there is no one way to create change but a wealth of tools and frameworks to choose from. Through the School, changemakers engage in conversation and learning with experienced practitioners from across a broad field. Together, we explore systems dynamics, futures practice, complexity practice, regenerative development, deep equity, systemic action inquiry, systems-oriented design, processwork and emergent strategies.  

Since its launch, the School has supported more than 400 leaders and changemakers from the worlds of business, not-for-profit, social enterprise, government, funding, movement organising, consultancy and the arts to integrate systems change into their work. 

And now, we’re entering a new phase - set to bring a wealth of knowledge, practice and connections to support ongoing work to transform whole sectors towards a new, just and regenerative paradigm.

"Understanding long-term challenges as systemic has been a game-changer for me. It gave me confidence to keep going, a new-found resilience and ... a cohort of inspiring peers to keep learning with. Add to that all the quality delivery, content & tools ... any leader with ambition to affect real change should do it!"

- Ben Mortimer, School of System Change Alumni and Head of Brand Innovation at Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate

Evolving the School

Over the last six months the School has considered its strategy and positioning with more than 75 of our contributors, alumni, and strategic partners. The result is a bolder, evolved proposition better articulated through a new website and an updated visual identity which speaks to our ambition. 

We’re now looking to support more leaders in organisations, fields, networks and places to bring systems change learning into their contexts.

We continue to offer a range of courses, catering to various levels (intermediate, fundamentals and advanced) and time-commitments (1-2 months; 3-5 months; 6+ months). Our long-standing offers, such as Spark and Basecamp, remain but we have also worked with our partners to create new ways to get involved. 

Take for example, our work with Johnson & Johnson Foundation to develop a learning space for leaders looking to transform health systems towards resilience and community-centred approaches. With MitOst we are exploring what systems change means in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Elsewhere we have piloted a new short course with the Bosch Alumni Network, which is now being offered for open enrolment as Delta: introduction to systems change in Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia-friendly timezones. Or there’s our collaboration with Aviva Investors, through which we’re launching a School of System Change in Finance to harness the influencing potential of the financial system in service of Paris Agreement goals.

Interested in collaborating with the School?

Do you want to adopt systems change approaches in order to enact deep, lasting change? Keen to immerse yourself in multiple systems change methods, while navigating the growing field of systems practice? Or perhaps you’re looking to learn with a network of practitioners embracing new ways of thinking, acting and being? Join ambitious leaders across sectors, systems and networks to create bold new partnerships?

If so, the School of System Change may be just what you’re looking for.

Email [email protected] or explore more on how we might work together.

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