Changemaking during the transition to the next system… whatever it is.

enkel collective
Oct 14, 2016 · 3 min read

Published by Adam Jorlen 14 October, 2016

“Truly addressing the problems of the twenty-first century requires going beyond business as usual — it requires “changing the system.” But what does this mean? And what would it entail?”

This question opens a series of ambitious explorations into new possible systems compiled by The Next System Project — a big-picture thinking initiative, which looks at new political-economic system models that deliver superior social, economic and ecological outcomes.

Many of the old ways of doing things no longer work. The systems are increasingly becoming unstable. Such an unstable state is chaotic, but chaos and crisis are natural characteristics when new systems are born. This instability will eventually pass and lead to new stable systems.

But for now we live in a time of transition.

So, as the Next System people ask in the quote above; What does this mean? And what would it entail?”

Well, we see many initiatives across the world, across disciplines and cultures, which aim to solve today’s problems.

The concepts in the transition column are already here. People are curious about them. Some people work on them and believe in them. They will be adopted by corporates if successful (coworking, makerlabs, open source, the sharing economy already are). But they are also bricks in the foundation for a next system, whatever that will be.

It’s easy to think of these concepts as being the next, the new, the goal we’re working towards.

But this thinking might not be helpful. Instead, we could see these concepts as stepping stones to the next system.

I.e. they are not part of the next system but necessary in order for it to become stable.

I’ve been reflecting on why it is useful to apply this next-system thinking and imagine one or several futures, rather than focussing on the new alluring solutions we have at hand today. Some of the possible benefits:

  • By not investing all our hope in a concept, we won’t be devastated if it fails. Remember the alternative movements in the 60s.
  • By seeing them as intermediary states we force the brain to imagine what’s next.
  • To come to an understanding that there are no beginnings and endings. Concepts such as the ones in the table always morph into others. It’s not about paradigm A and paradigm B. The table above is false.

So, if we look at the concepts in the transition column as stepping stones, how do we help people balance on them, navigate them to get over the river to the next paradigm? Well, I believe that local changemaker groups such as our enkel collective need to:

a) Educate people about these concepts.

b) Do these concepts ourselves.

To maximize our time and energy we should always try to combine a & b. I.e. educate people while we’re doing these things, and do these things while we’re educating people.

And to get credibility in these two actions I think we need to:

a) Look globally for events and organisations that are already doing it it (use case studies).

b) Tie all these concepts to theories.

I don’t know if this thinking will help, but it gives me some guidance in my endeavour to embrace uncertainty and the exciting mess we live in.

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