Transformations Strategy Articulated

The Forum’s goals, vision, mission and value proposition, were adopted at the Forum Council’s September meeting after eight months of work. The work identified the need to develop definitions around some core ideas (see Box).

Goals

1. Accelerate co-creation, co-stewarding and the scaling up, out and deep of transformations systems to ensure SDG-aligned outcomes at the following levels:

  • Place-based transformations systems, including at local, national and regional levels
  • Issue-led transformations systems
  • Capability-led transformations systems
  • SDG-TF transformations system
  • Global transformations systems

Core Definitions
Transformative change, in contrast to incremental change, reform and tradeoffs, fundamentally shifts connections, relationships, purposes, and function of systems and their subsystems at scale and in enduring ways in the direction of a flourishing, just and inclusive world. See more.
Systems practice involves understanding systems, convening actors in a relevant system around a shared set of interests and purposes, and discovering how to work together to build needed capabilities, capacities and actions.
Hard systems practice focuses mainly on mapping systems, whereas soft systems practice convenes and mobilizes systems of interest
Transformations systems use systems practice to connect change efforts, to realize transformative change.

2. Develop coherent, rich, accessible and evolving knowledge, methods, strategies and tools to facilitate SDG-inspired transformations systems

3. Convene and support the development and strengthening of capabilities worldwide to work with, and within, SDG-inspired transformations systems towards desirable outcomes

This provided the support for defining the Vision and Mission:

Vision

…a flourishing planet and an inclusive and just world where systemic understanding, capabilities and actions shape powerful transformations systems that are fully aligned with, and go beyond, the SDGs.

Mision

…to accelerate, develop and enable transformations systems change and its emergence, guided by an ethos of stewardship in service of a flourishing planet and inclusive and just world.

For the full document, including value propositions, go here. Comments are welcomed; the statement will be reviewed in a year.

A Theory of Transformational Change

In developing the strategy for the Forum’s own development, the Forum participants have also articulated a theory of transformational change (ToTC). The need for such a theory became apparent as the participants discussed the distinction between different types of change (incremental, reform, transformations), and the inappropriateness of conventional theories of change.

The Forum emphasizes a comprehensive, systemic approach, described in Diagram A. Elements are:
1) Deep Causes: These are factors that transformational change agents identify as inhibiting their success. They are distinguished from direct causes, and the proximate causes that are the focus of most change efforts. For example, the direct cause of climate change is emissions, a proximate cause might be seen as money to address it; the deep cause is the logic of the finance system itself – its reward and goal structure, the role of money in determining priorities, its distribution, etc. (Note: We specifically do NOT use “root cause”, since it often conveys a fundamentally non-systemic image of being able to pick one thing as THE problem, whereas systems thinking with complexity emphasizes interactions between many elements as generating problematic flows and feedback.)
2) Change spheres: Review of large systems change initiatives revealed that change agents tend to focus on only one or two arenas where transformation must happen and may start. The Forum emphasizes action that considers the importance of five arenas: individual, technological, institutional/organizational, cultural and environmental.
3) Co-creating transformations systems: Such systems already exist all around us, with many transformations-oriented initiatives focused on geographies and/or issues. However, the initiatives do not yet form powerful transformations systems – that requires much better understanding about how to work together, new structures and connections, novel skills and radical knowledge. The Forum identifies and works with current initiatives to develop powerful transformations systems.
4) Three pathways to transformation: Three types of “pathways” provide a basis for action:

a) Geographic-focused pathways: These are modest-sized regions which are defined by a shared sense of transformation imperative.

b) Issue-focused pathways: A classic set of issues is represented by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); of course, these have many sub-issues and there is ready recognition of their interconnected nature.
c) Deep causes pathways: This pathway directly addresses the deep causes.

This ToTC is further explained in a new 14 minute slide-video show about the Forum.

Forum Video

Defining the Forum’s strategy and developing a theory of transformational change provided the basis for a 14 minute slide-deck video about the Forum. The video is now on the home page of the Forum web-site, and can be accessed here. Comments are encouraged. Please send them to Steve Waddell, Lead Staff – swaddell@transformationsforum.net

Working Group Reports

Working groups are organized around key transformations issues.

Capacity

Lead Steward: Tony Cooke – tony@oneplaneteducationnetworks.org
Councilor: John Colvin – john.colvin.emeraldnetwork@gmail.com

Activities include:

  • Writing a chapter for a new book on Developing Change Agents for Sustainability that examines learnings from three global initiatives to mobilize and develop change agents.
  • Collaborative research, supported by Dr Isabel Rimanoczy, and in partnership with two of the world’s leading membership organizations for sustainability professionals (IEMA and SocEnv), to develop insights from their 25,000 members on where they get stuck as change agents for sustainability. The findings of this research will be self-published late 2018/early 2019 as a joint report and will feed into the design of and the investment case for larger-scale research that could radically improve our understanding of where the key leverage points are for accelerating and amplifying the impact of change agents worldwide.
  • As a step in launching a platform for aspiring and practicing change agents, ChangeHackers has grown to more than 40 podcasts of leading transformational change agents.
  • AR+ Transformations Gathering, Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden, March 8-10
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AR+ Transformations Gathering is a community organizing space, designed by and for those committed to action-oriented transformations research. Our gathering convenes a new global community to enable creative interaction around the question of how to do science with stakeholders. If you’re engaged in creating transformative knowledge, emphasizing participation, inquiry, action and deeper values orientation, then you belong! We see our transdisciplinary work not only as an alternative, but also as a complement, to conventional ways of doing “objective” science. We want our research to be more useful in the crises of sustainability and the promise of co-generative societies; we want our collaboration to piggyback on the important work already underway around the work, we want to help connect efforts up. Go here to register.

Come, be part of and contribute to shaping this community.

Financing Transformation

Lead Steward: Steve Waddell – swaddell@networkingaction.net
Councillor: Steven Lovink – jslovink@planet2025.net

  • A July 11-12 meeting with four dozen participants, Philanthropy Transforming Finance: Building an Impact Economy was organized by Working Group (WG) Stewards Heather Grady as part of her Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors scaling impact work, and Laurie Lane-Zucker who has organized a network of 19,500 impact investor and entrepreneur stakeholders and he is joining the WG. There were 46 participants, including three additional WG Stewards. A report on the meeting is available here.
  • A concept note is being developed to investigate the value and feasibility of community and its efforts, defined by the intersection of:
    1. Those involved in financing; and
    2. Transformational large systems change.
    Interviews are being undertaken to advance the note’s development. The current concept note can be seen here.
  • Traditional approaches to conservation are proving highly inadequate, as bio-diversity loss skyrockets. Transformational strategies are being proposed in a new report, Conservations Futures, by focusing on technology, finance and legal recourse. With lead author Mark Halle also a Steward with the Financing Transformations WG, a concept note is being developed to advance “conservation finance”, which integrates concerns about conservation into the very operations of the finance system.

Meta-Narrative

Lead Steward: Chris Riedy – criedy@uts.edu.au
Councillor: Sandra Waddock – waddock@bc.edu
Since the last newsletter, the Meta-Narrative Working Group has held two online workshops, bringing together a diverse group of people interested in working with memes, stories and narratives for transformation.

  • Introductory Workshop, June 2018: The goal of this first workshop was to introduce the SDG Transformation Forum and Meta-Narrative Working Group to possible participants, and start to explore common interests. Three threads of possible collaboration emerged from the workshop. First, there was strong interest in working together to map and analyse narratives at a global scale – both the dominant narratives that are holding us back, and emerging narratives that support transformation. Second, the idea of working to ground the abstract concept of narrative in a specific context, for example by working with Project Light in the Balkans (see under Brightspots report), was attractive. Third, the group identified a need and opportunity to engage with artistic and creative practitioners who can express narratives in engaging ways.
  • Mapping Global Narratives, September 2018: Our second workshop tackled the first thread identified in the Introductory Workshop – how can we work together to map and analyse narratives at a global scale? Twelve ideas for specific activities emerged during the workshop and were later synthesised into five possible streams of work:
    • Meme identification – using techniques such as word cloud analysis and surveys to identify promising memes from which new narratives could be constructed
    • Narrative mapping – identifying and categorising narratives as source material for undermining dominant narratives
    • Adopting and refining new narratives – without waiting for further research, start using the narratives that already look promising and refine them over time (e.g. we are living beings on a living Earth; dignity and well-being in a flourishing world for all)
    • Theory of narrative change – deeper analysis of how narratives change and how memes, stories and narratives influence each other, which could build on some historical cases
    • Narrative acupuncture – intervening where we can have most impact to unravel dominant narratives, flip dominant memes, re-story and help bring forth new meaning-making.

We have established a Transformative Meta-Narratives community on the Future Earth Open Network to provide a space for further discussion on transformative memes, stories and narratives. We welcome participation!

Evaluation for Transformation (E4T)

Lead Steward: Zenda Ofir – zenda@evalnet.co.za
Councillor: Glenn Page – gpage@sustainametrix.com
Formerly the Transforming Evaluation Working Group, E4T activities include:

  • A new, more detailed Manifesto and First Initiatives document describes the E4T agenda and strategy. It includes the critique that Approaches and methodologies are not designed and implemented with critical transitions, transformational change or transformational development in mind… and the conclusion that this means that our evaluative practice itself, and the systems that shape and direct its theories and practices, need to be transformed. The document details Our Approach, Guiding Principles, and Immediate Activities, organized around 9 Interest Groups which have been set up and are starting their work; these are intended to help get things done, but sharing in the WG as a whole will continue. Find the full document here; find the summary document here.
  • Two webinars have introduced the Forum, the WG and initiate activities, and share ideas.
  • Those attending the and American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference (Cleveland, USA Oct. 31-Nov. 3) will gather for face-to-face interaction.
  • Discussions are being held to look for synergies with initiatives such as Three Horizons / H3Uni, Reos, TIAS, the SDG Centre in South Africa – and soon to also with the one in Africa (Rwanda), and with Steve Lydenberg / TIIP through Glenn’s assistance to look at connections with E4T and the Blue Marble Evaluators.
  • As VP of the International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS), WG Lead Steward Zenda Ofir is proposing as its 2019 theme Evaluation for Transformative Change: bringing experiences of the Global South to the Global North with the hope that the Forum can be a strong partner. Contact her to discuss how the Forum can help shape the effort into something really useful and interesting, beyond convention in the evaluation space. The conference is planned for Sept. 30 – Oct. 4, 2019 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Bright spots Report

Forum-associated place-based transformation efforts, known as “Brightspots”, are developing in three locations.

The Gulf of Maine (USA)

From Glenn Page: gpage@sustainametrix.com
This is one of the most rapidly warming bodies of water in the world, resulting in numerous changes including the demise of the lobster industry which has been a mainstay of the economy.
Under the leadership of Forum Councillor and local resident Glenn Page, a five-day learning journey of the region in July to explore the transformations systems into the heart of the Gulf of Maine. The core group featured 10 people with another 30 people involved in aspects of the learning journey who came together over the seven day period to explore, see and experience the issues the region is facing as well as the remarkable systems change underway. Each day the group reflected on the nature of change and shared what they were learning about the transformations systems and implications for future work. The group concluded that a collaborative structure is needed to further this work, and more effectively connect and accelerate systems change in this region as a potential model. Several action items are underway including the following:

1. Video documentation of the journey with participant interviews
2. Implementation of a survey to gather feedback from core participants
3. A 4-panel newsletter format that can be shared regarding the overall journey
4. A more detailed feasibility study and series of soft launch events described below

See the full update here.

The Balkans (Europe)

From Nikola Jurisic: nikola_jurisic@mckinsey.com
A team of residents and expats has organized Project Light with the vision of building a values based society in which we all the citizens want and choose to life in. The 21 million inhabitants in the region has been historically racked by ethnic and religious conflict.
The group reports that it is:

  • Collaborating with the Next Generation Peacebuilders program supported by the Rotary International in understanding how to make their Balkans program launching in Spring next year a) scalable and b) personally transformational for the participants
  • Working on a financing proposal for systems mapping/systems analysis with the Forum
  • Writing a blog related to 12 transformational project a bright spot can consider
  • Key challenge we are facing is governance and channeling volunteer energy. With respect to this we are exploring the Social Ventures Australia business model and will be considering if this is the right org model for us in the Balkans bright spot
  • Working in a bright spot metanarrative session with the Metanarrative working group

Bay Area (Greater San Francisco)

From Todd Erickson: todd@cocreativeconsulting.com
The team has met a number of times to discuss the viability of undertaking a systemic, transformation support effort in the region. Some of our efforts include:

  • Starting to identify current efforts underway to tackle complex regional problems like housing, transportation and climate change
  • Beginning to map out who we need to engage further in this exploration
  • Attending the Gulf of Maine Learning Journey
  • Connected with local UN Association chapters to explore efforts to localize the SDGs
  • Attended several affiliated sessions during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco

One hypothesis we’re looking at is: to what extent is there adequate support for effective collaborative action on complex issues and how often are these issues being worked on independently, not considering the interdependencies with other issues.
Preliminary research points to the need for increased coordination, effective system leadership, coordinated financial support, and proactive facilitation of aligned collaboration across sectoral and organizational boundaries.
We’re starting to map out a strategy that will meet this need by first conducting a series of interviews with local change makers to test the goal of having a Systemic Transformational Social Change system in place in the Bay Area by 2023.

Scaling Bright spots: Identifying Place-Based Transformations

There are many more place-based transformations efforts underway in addition to the three currently connected to the Forum. As an example of the Forum’s role in organizing transformations systems, it is working with The Capital Institute to identify examples and the value of creating a learning network with them.
The analysis would help grow the Regenerative Communities Network, which The Capital Institute has just launched in partnership with the Forum and others. Other examples of regenerative communities are some of those in The Seeds of Good Anthropocene, Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation, and winners of the Belmont Forum’s Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services transitional awards.

Issues Report

The Forum works on particular issues that require transformations.

Forests and Climate

The issues of forest and climate are the focus of work being developed with UN-REDD. REDD+ stands for countries’ efforts to  Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, and (+) foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The UN-REDD Programme supports nationally led REDD+ processes and promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation.
REDD+ engages over 60 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. It currently operates within a 2016-2020 strategic plan which aims to end deforestation within 30 years. One critical issue is the critical role of forests in halting climate change, which will be highlighted at the September 2019 climate summit.
The Forum and the UN-REDD Director have agreed upon a charrette to rapidly assess a transformation pathway. Referred to as a design charrette, it includes activities culminating with a 2-1/2 day meeting before the end of the year with a half dozen people from REDD and a half dozen people from the Forum. Participants are identified based on the diverse perspectives; in the Forum’s case, this means people from different Working Groups to ensure attention to key transformations issue.
The charrette is one step in a larger process in which the Forum is likely to remain engaged, depending on the extent of funding that could become available through several agencies, including the World Bank and Green Climate Fund, that are interested in a process that can support the intent of the 2019 Climate Summit of the UNSG.

Gatherings

Leverage Points Conference

Feb 6-10, 2019: Leuphana University – Lunenburg, Germany

Join the SDG Transformations Forum community at the Leverage Points Conference being organized by the Leverage Points for Sustainability transformations agents. You can see the Forum’s significant participation described in this blog. The conference is Feb 6-8; there will be a meeting of Forum participants all day, Feb. 9; the day following the Forum meeting, Feb. 10, you can join a workshop to co-create a meta-measurement (baseline) system for place-based transformative work to better see, connect and accelerate large-scale system change. It is led by Evaluation for Transformations Councillor and Gulf of Maine Brightspots lead, Glenn Page.

AR+ Transformations Gathering

March 8-10, 2019: Chalmers University – Gothenburg, Sweden

AR+ Transformations Gathering is a community organizing space, designed by and for those committed to action oriented transformations research. Hosts are AR+, Chalmers University and the Forum. Our gathering convenes a new global community to enable creative interaction around the question of how to do science with stakeholders. If you’re engaged in creating transformative knowledge, emphasizing participation, inquiry, action and deeper values orientation, then you belong! We see our transdisciplinary work not only as an alternative, but also as a complement, to conventional ways of doing “objective” science. We want our research to be more useful in the crises of sustainability and the promise of co-generative societies; we want our collaboration to piggyback on the important work already underway around the work, we want to help connect efforts up. Go here to register.
Registering no later than Winter Solstice (Dec 21st), entitles you to participate as a “Community Catalyst.” Along with special community initiating opportunities, this includes participation at a dedicated recognition Community Catalysts  luncheon.

Come, be part of and contribute to shaping this community.

International Development Evaluation Association

Sept. 30 – Oct. 4, 2019: Prague, Czech Republic

The International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS), WG Lead Steward Zenda Ofir is proposing as its 2019 theme Evaluation for Transformative Change: bringing experiences of the Global South to the Global North with the hope that the Forum can be a strong partner. Contact her (Zenda Ofir: zenda@evalnet.co.za ) to discuss how the Forum can help shape the effort into something really useful and interesting, beyond convention in the evaluation space.

Transformations 2019

October 16-18, 2019: University of Chile – Santiago, Chile

With the them Learning from Transformative Action and Thinking, the premier gathering of the SDG Transformations Forum community will be in the Southern hemisphere.  Transformations 2019 aims to provide a platform for reciprocal learning between developing and developed national and local contexts, and between researchers and practitioner. The Continuity Committee includes the lead organizers of the previous three Transformations International Gatherings (Karen O’Brien, Per Olsson, Ioan Fazey, Mark Howden), and Paulina Aldunce from the University of Chile; Paulina has organized a Local Strategic Committee.
The gathering aims to provide a platform for reciprocal learning between developing and developed national and local contexts, and between researchers and practitioner in order to enhance both practice and theory to support transformative changes for addressing climate change and other contemporary societal and environmental challenges.
The Forum is organizing an additional day or two for another Forum Gathering.

Publications

Call for Papers
The journal Climate is currently running a Special Issue entitled “Social-Ecological Systems, Climate and Global Change Impacts”. The submission deadline is 31 January 2019. For further reading, please follow the link to the Special Issue Website at: http://www.mdpi.com/journal/climate/special_issues/social_ecological