Systemness is a twelve-month leadership academy to co-create wholistic social systems that serve whole people.
The Academy teaches systems-building principles, shares concrete examples of the ideas in action, and provides a space to practice the skills. The course is designed to empower experienced collaborative and/or systems leaders to approach and address complex social problems from a systems perspective.
The experience is ideal for (1) people who want to be better system thinkers; (2) leaders who want to create an authentic unity among a diverse group of stakeholders; and (3) communities that want to use a coherent, wholistic approach to address complex social
problems. It is particularly suited for participants with several years of experience designing and operating collaborative work in leadership positions to affect change.
The course is taught by the practitioners from CivicLab, a nonprofit institute dedicated to advancing the practice of civic collaboration.
The Systems Leadership Academy includes over 36 hours of course time over a twelve-month period. Each session starts at 2:00 p.m. ET and concludes at 4:30 p.m. ET. Additionally, office hours are held immediately following each session from 4:30 p.m. ET to 5:00 p.m. ET.
INTRODUCTION: The Systems Leadership Academy Overview & Introduction
We tend to think about things by breaking the world into pieces. But once we take a system apart, it loses its essential properties. It loses its systemness. We fragment the world instead of making it whole. Over the next twelve-months this course will focus on systems-building principles, share concrete examples of the ideas in action, and provide a space to practice the skills for co-creating wholistic social systems designed to serve whole people.
SESSION 1: Systemness: The “system” is how we work together
Making the parts of a system better doesn’t guarantee that the system as a whole will be better. This session presents the paradigm shift necessary to move towards a wholistic systems model for addressing complex social issues and serving whole people.
SESSION 2: It’s better to dissolve a problem than solve it
A social issue is not one thing, and for leaders, this means that different situations demand different approaches. This session focuses on moving beyond solving problems and towards the practice of dissolving them, allowing leaders to redesign the underlying system and shaping the conditions that caused the problem in the first place.
SESSION 3: It’s a systems thing, not a single thing
A social system is transformed not by a single solution but by an ecosystem of interrelated approaches. This session presents an ecosystem mapping tool that helps stakeholders better understand their role and function within the larger social system they serve.
SESSION 4: A system can’t be controlled, but it can be re-designed
Dissolving problems requires a particular set of principles and practices and approaches a problem by redesigning the underlying system or its environment, shaping the conditions that caused the problem in the first place. This session addresses the many acts you can take toward dissolution, both big and small.
SESSION 5: Systems change is about transforming relationships
The highest function of systemness is the understanding of relationships. This session poses the question for leaders, what kinds of relationships is the system intended to nurture, cultivate, and engender, and is the system living up to these intentions?
SESSION 6: In a system, there is a time and place for everything
Context is everything. Focusing on a "person-in-context" makes the abstract nature of social systems more tangible and concrete. This session illustrates how the best system leaders know how to shape and redesign the system's contexts and points of interactions to serve whole people in a wholistic way.
SESSION 7: Where people live shouldn’t determine their potential
Efforts to improve safety, education, health, and work prospects depend on improving the social system—and this system can differ neighborhood by neighborhood. This session explores how a placed-based approach may be different from the way the system is currently organized to serve people.
SESSION 8: If it remains invisible, it remains unsolvable
As leaders, we must do everything within our ability to make the system visible: as long as it remains invisible, it remains unknowable and unsolvable. And if a problem cannot be known, it cannot be dissolved. This session demonstrates how to develop a shared understanding of a system, which often comes down to seeing what had previously been unseen.
SESSION 9: To improve the system: solve for one, extend to many
Improving the macro system starts with the micro. We can't help a thousand people until we understand how to help one. This session focuses on visualizing the perspectives of diverse individual people one-by-one, so we can understand a problem up close and in context, work to solve it, and then dissolve it for many individuals.
SESSION 10: A dynamic system cannot be improved with static data
Much of the fragmentation found within a social system comes from the static way things are measured. This session explores how to move toward more dynamic, real-time methods of assessing progress, as well as the different quantitive and qualitative measures necessary to evaluate the success of a system.
SESSION 11: As a human institution, a system must be led
Most organizations operate in sector silos and focus on one social issue, considering any work on the underlying social system beyond their scope of responsibilities. This session presents ways for a leader to accept responsibility to lead the system, making substantive and lasting changes to the interrelated underlying conditions in which the problems are embedded.
SESSION 12: Achieving Systemness: Epilogue and Commencement
The academy concludes with stories shared by the participants about lessons learned, changes in thinking, the strengthening of relationships, and the next steps on their systems journey.
Due to the collaborative nature of systems work, there will be expectations for participants to continue this work beyond the scheduled session and determine how it might best integrate into their own work.
In order to best support you as a participant and your fellow classmates, we ask that you do everything you can to make all the sessions and be fully present in those sessions. We understand that things may come up, but this is to fully support you and the others in your class on your systemness learning journey.
CivicLab is now accepting applications for the Systemness Leadership Academy. The cost to participate in the 2023 Systemness Leadership Academy is $7,500. This is a subsidized rate down from $10,000 thanks to the generous support provided by Lumina Foundation.
The Academy includes: