Scientists have been discussing systems change since the mid 1900’s, so why focus on it now? In February 2021, the number of individuals plugging “systems change” into Google was the highest it’s been since 2007. The Covid-19 pandemic brought to light the deep rooted societal, economic, governmental issues (as well as many other -al, -ic, and -ism issues). Not only have these problems come to light, but also how intertwined they are; the sobering realization that in order to change something, we might have to change everything.
Digging deeper into the spike of systems change popularity in 2007, one can quickly find that the popularity ran parallel to a publication by Penny G Foster-Fisherman titled Systems change reborn: Rethinking our theories, methods, and efforts in human services reform and community based change. The article was written in a psychological context and was quite popular as it was published in the American Journal of Community Psychology. Among other things, the article outlines “…the need for frameworks, methods, and change activities that attend to the characteristics of systems.” Much like Bertalanffy’s biology-focused systems theory was applicable to many other fields, Foster-Fisherman’s analyses of exemplary systems thinking contains useful lessons for researchers of all kinds.
Some readers will likely remember significant global events that were occurring around the same time period; notably, the beginning of the global financial crisis that led to a significant recession. It is unsurprising that many individuals at the time became interested in systems change as the collapse of certain systems inevitably led to the full or partial collapse of many others.
It seems that the world is now experiencing a similar interest in systems change as we strive to emerge from one of the largest global health crises in the last century, COVID-19, sturdier and better prepared.
In July, the World Benchmarking Alliance released a report titled It Takes a System to Change the System. The ties between public health, social well-being, the economy, and the environment are exceptionally clear. The paper highlights the need for systemic transformation if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The call for systems change is overwhelming as the WBA highlights specific companies that “…have the greatest potential to achieve a more equitable, and sustainable future.” and what changes need to be made to support such a future.
Sustainability experts, restaurant owners, the environment, even children, have all been affected in unique ways due to the pandemic. It is important to consider each perspective and implication as we suggest alternate societal frameworks. Mask mandates saved lives but threaten sea life, government financial assistance may have contributed to a labour shortage, and online education brought both success and failure to students based on their unique needs. As you are probably well aware, total systems change doesn’t happen in a straight line, it’s a frustrating, difficult, and incredibly complex process. We need to begin that process now.
Earth is on the precipice of change, we no longer have any choice in that matter. By connecting experts from various fields, by facilitating complex conversations, and by creating a community centered around systems change, systemCHANGR aims to catalyze transformative change.
It will take a village, in fact, it will take many villages from many countries in many continents. This doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that a village matters any less than a country. We are excited to connect the ocean to the mountaintops, the teachers to the executives, the first time founders to the serial entrepreneurs, and we can’t wait for you to join us.
Lauren Carson, Associate, systemCHANGR