Large Systems Change: an emerging field of transformation and transitions

Steve Waddell, Principal, NetworkingAction

This article was first posted on the NetworkingAction blog. See the original here.

What is meant by “large systems change (LSC)?” How can we “do it” much better? What must change and what are the strategies to realize it? What does a comprehensive picture of the field of LSC knowledge and methods look like? These are some of the questions that a just-published Special Issue of the Journal of Corporate Citizenship on LSC investigates. Contributors include David Snowden, Mari Fitzduff, Otto Scharmer, Rajesh Tandon, Pieter Glasbergen and Derk Loorbach.

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Memes and Large System Change

Sandra Waddock, Boston College 2015

In 1976 evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene invented the term ‘meme,’ to represent the basic unit of cultural information that replicates from one person to another. Dawkins sought a term that resembled the basic building block of life—the gene—for the basic building block of culture—the meme. Memes generate the complex ideas and other units of information that form into complexes, called memeplexes by Susan Blackmore in her book The Meme Machine. Such memeplexes become our belief systems, ideologies, cultures, stories, shared values and norms, and common (or not) understandings, among other things. The core idea of the successful meme is that it transfers from one person to another, like genes, reasonably intact.

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Complexity, Collapse and Large Systems Change

Sandra Waddock, Boston College  2015

Large systems change is arguably needed if the world is to transition from its current unsustainable business-as-usual trajectory toward a socio-political-economic system that creates a sustainable enterprise economy. As the special issue of the Journal of Corporate Citizenship (Issue 58) on Large Systems Change makes clear, such transitions are uncertain and difficult. Further, the collapse of numerous previous human civilizations in the past tells us that system changes are not always in the direction of sustainability. The question we wanted to raise with the special issue is how can we, as participants in the system, begin to bring about change in the direction of sustainability rather than its opposite?

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