A Social Innovator’s Guide to Systems Thinking

Submitted by Tim Draimin on July 12, 2013 - 5:15pm

Our planet's 7 billion inhabitants depend daily on a myriad of interlocking systems for clothing, food, and shelter as well as meeting health care and other needs.  But, our primary man-made systems were born - or matured - in the immediate post-World War II ear when the plan was less populated and its needs less complex.

Today, many of these systems are now reaching – or have passed – their “best by” date. This is why, “systems innovation will become the most important focus for companies and governments, cities and entire societies…In the next decades the focus will shift towards the innovation of new kinds of systems.”

In A Social Innovator’s Guide to Systems Thinking, Tim Draimin, E.D. of Social Innovation Generation (SiG), makes the case that the focus of innovation is increasingly focused on developing new kinds of systems. He then profiles the discipline of Systems Thinking – sharing principles and resources -- and suggests that social innovators wanting to impact change hone these skills. 

Tim profiles recent articles by Charlie Leadbeater, a leading writer on social innovation, and Geoff Mulgan, CEO of Nesta – a UK-based charity that helps bring great ideas to life – Tim then profiles the discipline of Systems Thinking to explain what systems are, why they are so important, and how they should be a focus for change by people involved in building and scaling social innovations. 

Quoting Al Etmanski, one of Canada’s social strategists extraordinare, Tim challenges us to consider what is needed to “get social innovation into the water supply” and asks us to think about: How do you see the issues you care about through a systems thinking lens? Does Systems Thinking have implications for how you imagine deepening your impact over the next decade?

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