Reframing the Systems We Want

January 24, 2013 Leave a comment

|Photo by Darrel Birkett||

I’ve been playing with different reflection questions lately to try and help various networks and multi-stakeholder collaborative change efforts put a clearer and more aligned frame around the kinds of systems (food, education, health, etc.) that would yield more equitable, sustainable, and enriching results.  This is not to pretend that they can take control of the systems and command them to be different, but rather to create an image toward which they can nudge these systems via various leverage points.  In one recent convening, I borrowed a page from critical systems heuristics, which asks us to identify and play with the existing systemic boundaries, including motivation, power, expertise and legitimacy.

Beginning with the assumption that all systems provide some kind of benefit to someone (at least in the short-term) the following questions were asked in three World Cafe rounds:

  • What current value is being created by the system and for whom?  What should be the value and for whom?
  • Who currently is treated as a legitimate system stakeholder?  Who ought to be treated as a legitimate system stakeholder?
  • What current measures are used to gauge value contributions to and through the system?  What measures should we be using?

Subsequent feedback was that these really helped people mentally move towards the future they wanted to bring into being via naming what currently plays out with respect to purpose, beneficiaries/decision-makers/informants, and determinants of success.

What other questions might or have you asked people to guide their efforts in terms of system change?

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