Deep Systems Challenges

Those who are working for transformational change were asked: What is it that is holding you back from being even more successful in your transformational change efforts?  Their responses described something quite different from the focus of most change efforts. Take the example of climate change, where the direct cause is emissions.  Almost all change effort focuses on shifting such things as policies, inventing new technologies, raising more money for investment in sustainable energy, changing the production system, and influencing consumers. These activities address what can be called proximate causes, in contrast to the deep systems causes described by transformations change agents.

The agents described causes embedded in our very societal structures and our ways of acting and thinking, and goals. Deep systems challenges that have come to the attention of the Forum include:

  1. Capacity: The need to greatly enhance the numbers of skillful transformations agents and the action-oriented learning/research logic to expand transformations knowledge, tools and skills.
  2. Evaluation: Moving from a project-boundaried, in-put out-put model based on historic data collection frameworks and structures, to a transformations-supportive evaluation approach.
  3. Financing: Change the logic of the current finance systems which separates funding modalities (eg: science funding from impact investor funding), reward logics (producing profits from activity which undermines stability) and power/decision-making structures dominated by those with money.
  4. Governance: The processes of direction-setting, policy-making, implementation and enforcement that are generally weak and ineffective.
  5. Innovation: Creating innovations systems that appropriately consider the social-ecological impact of innovation.
  6. Narrative: Changing the stories and memes that underlie people’s sense of what’s right and proper behavior and the ways the world works, to be aligned with a sustainability imperative.