Complexity & Change
What do we mean by complexity?
Today’s justice leaders, organizations, and networks are operating in a complex ecosystem where practice that leads to real change is emergent; cause and effect can only be fully understood in retrospect; and more frequent experimentation, risk-taking, and ongoing learning may be the best course of action. The last decade has seen a significant shift towards a more complex environment, marked by:
- A political and economic time where policy change, especially at the federal and international level, is very hard to achieve
- Increased understanding that progressive issues are intersectional and won’t be advanced by fighting in issue silos
- Demographic shifts along multiple dimensions reveal both deep rifts and powerful opportunities
The typical levers and buttons for creating change don’t work in many situations now. In this often unpredictable environment, traditional rules of organizational development may not apply. Organizational change has always required looking at governance, structure, staff, and culture -- now we have to do it in ways that welcome innovation, experimentation, adaptation, and emergent practice. Moreover, leaders at all levels must adapt and innovate, developing new approaches to capacity building, leadership development, strategy, and more.
Through our work with clients, our learning programs such as the Network Leadership Innovation Lab, and our research, we are learning how to apply a complexity lens to the social justice context in order to create stronger organizations, leaders, networks, and movements.
MAG's Learning on Complexity
What We Are Reading
Auspos, Patricia and Mark Cabaj. Complexity and Community Change: Managing Adaptively to Improve Effectiveness. The Aspen Institute, 2014.
Berlow, Eric. Simplifying Complexity. Ted Talk, 2010.
Garvey-Berger, J., Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World. Stanford: Stanford Business Books, 2011.
Laloux, Frederic, Reinventing Organizations. Nelson Parker, 2014.
McCandless, Keith and Henri Limpanowicz. The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash A Culture of Innovation. Liberating Structures Press, 2014.
Mowles, Chris. Complex, but not Quite Complex Enough: The Turn to Complexity Sciences in Evaluation Scholarship. Evaluation 20(2), 160-175, 2014.
Snowden, David J. and Boone, Mary E., “Leader’s Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review, 85(11), 68-76, 2007.