Why do transformations occur?  There are many ways to describe drivers of transformation.  People usually focus on only one or two drivers of transformation.  The Forum emphasizes the importance of paying attention to all the drivers, in order to understand where opportunities and threats are arising.  It draws on the concept of “spheres of change” development through review of those writing about transformation.  That review identified eight drivers of change, which it describes as change spheres. They are presented in the diagram as a way to point out that they are all connected.  These are:

  • Personal: individuals, mental models, values, mind-sets
  • Technology: physical innovations
  • Social-political-economic institutions: formal and informal organizations
  • Societal memes, values, beliefs: the cultural aspects
  • Natural environment: the planet’s natural systems

The arrows in the diagram aim to emphasize that these drivers interact.  For example, in the marriage equality (gay marriage) transformation, personal relationships (e.g.: same sex couples) interact with social norms (e.g.: social acceptance) and  produce institutional change (e.g.: laws, policies).

Purposeful transformations agents often start with one “change sphere”, depending on their particular disposition. However, they then often come to realize that to support transformation in that one sphere, also requires transformation in other spheres. Different cultures tend to emphasize different spheres. American culture tends to emphasize an individual’s personal capacities; Europeans those of institutions; Germans are particularly comfortable with engineering technologies, and Silicon Valley with computer-based ones.

Different change spheres may be emphasized at different transformational moments. For example, with approaches to economic development, there have been cycles of solutions and emphasis on different spheres (except, in this case, the natural environment, although that is now arising with Nature-Based Solutions).