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seven ways to be a better leader in systems change

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Oh man, we just love this: Seven Lessons for Leaders in Systems Change. Great for educators, activists, community leaders, farmers, and– generally– everyone who gives a damn.

Here’s a taste, but please click-through to read the full piece at at the Center for Ecoliteracy.

Lesson #1:  To promote systems change, foster community and cultivate networks.

Most of the qualities of a living system, notes Fritjof Capra, are aspects of a single fundamental network pattern: nature sustains life by creating and nurturing communities. Lasting change frequently requires a critical mass or density of interrelationships within a community. For instance, we’ve seen from research and our experience that curricular innovation at a school usually becomes sustainable only when at least a third of the faculty are engaged and committed.

“If nothing exists in isolation,” writes famed essayist Wendell Berry, “then all problems are circumstantial; no problem resides, or can be solved, in anybody’s department.” Even if problems defy solution by a single department, school districts are often structured so that responsibilities are assigned to isolated and unconnected divisions. Nutrition services may report to the business manager, while academic concerns lie within the domain of the director of curriculum. To achieve systems change, leaders must cross department boundaries and bring people addressing parts of the problem around the same table. For example, we’re currently coordinating a feasibility study with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). It requires looking simultaneously at ten aspects of school food operations (from teaching and learning to finance and facilities) identified in our Rethinking School Lunch framework.

In the push to make decisions and produce results quickly, it’s easy to bypass people — often the very people, such as food service staff and custodians, who will have the task of implementing changes and whose cooperation is key to success. It’s necessary to keep asking: “Who’s being left out?” and “Who should be in the room?”

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