03/02/2017

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What is systems entrepreneurship? What does it look like in action? How does it relate to the work of building an organization? To policy-advocacy? To creating social movements? And who’s a systems leader, anyway? Stay up to date on all of our discussions via our live stream.

Systems are at the core of social entrepreneurship, and allow us all to achieve large-scale, sustained social change. The GOL community collectively lacks the language, and the foundational tools necessary to best discuss and understand the purpose and implementation of systems thinking.

Funders often struggle with the ability to support system thinking, as it’s difficult to explain and measure. Joe McCannon of Billions Institute, Rebecca Onie of Health Leads and David Stroh of Bridgeway Partners, led a discussion on the possible ways we can begin putting together the pieces of systems entrepreneurship.

Rebecca started the dialogue by explaining the challenge of defining this term. “What is systems change? It’s a muddy, complex and inscrutable challenge,” she said, explaining the need for a methodology behind systems change.

“There are patterns in systems. They feel abstract, but in many ways, they are examples of the human story- and the traps we all fall into because we don’t recognize how social systems behave and evolve,” David added, discussing the role of identifying the purpose for defining the values and implications of systems entrepreneurship.

To David, the answer sits in distinguishing the difference between small successes and quick fixes. “We put our resources into the quick fix- but we undermine our motivation to implement a more fundamental solution,” he explained as the core difference that often goes unacknowledged, further confusing the idea of systems thinking.

Joe took a step back, and focused on the puzzle-like structure that lays a foundation for systems. “You see a full system and you realize you’re just a tiny piece of it,” he said, noting that we are all part of a bigger puzzle, and we need to find our place, where we fit perfectly to create the largest amount of impact possible.

For more on systems entrepreneurship, check out Jeff Walker's piece!