Global Living Room: Demystifying Systems Change with John Kania
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Global Living Room: Demystifying Systems Change with John Kania

Our Challenge: How do we demystify systems change to equip leaders with the tools to create and grow their change efforts?

John Kania’s Point 

In the last two months, as in no time in recent memory has the flaws of our current system been so openly exposed. 

It’s time to break the bars of the status quo, and not merely bend them.

To accomplish this, we need to shift the six conditions that hold a problem in place.

Shifting a system begins with shifting the mental models of people in the system.  At the same time, it’s essential to “re-wire” system connections by building new relationships and shifting power – who gets to decide.  Changes in these conditions can then lead to long term sustainable changes in policies, practices and resource flows.

Why I Should Care

There is some issue of the current system that frustrates and angers you.

Understanding John’s framework will help you focus your energy on accomplishing the change you wish to see.

Something To Think About

“The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein.

If we are going to change tomorrow, we can’t think like we did yesterday. We must evolve our consciousness.

For example, look to the LGBT community and their Freedom To Marry Campaign. They told the compelling story that Love is Love.

This accessible, well-defined story had a connection that reached everyone. By understanding their narrative, they knew how to connect with unlikely allies. They broadcast stories of parents who were against same-sex marriage until they had to grasp the notion of telling their children they weren’t worth marrying. 

This shift in their mental model then motivated them further. Their change of heart was not enough, but in telling their story, they made Love is Love more accessible to the people in their lives. As the ripple of this narrative grew, so did the advocates for love.

How I Can Help

  1. Think of a cause that moves you. 
  2. Develop your story. Understand how you connect to this cause. 
  3. Write that story out. Add pictures if you’d like.
  4. Share that story with an organization that supports your cause.

This exercise will help you create a story that can inspire empathy. Maybe no organization ever uses your story. Maybe. But…you armed a cause you care about with more “emotional” ammunition. You’ve also worked on a better way to share this cause with the people around you.

Call to Arms

Artists, Writers, Poets, Musicians…Story Tellers of all kinds.
The path to changing minds is by strumming the heartstrings. This powerful wave of empathy can ignite our creative spark and lift our collective consciousness.

Questions to Walk Away With 

1. What is a current system that I care about?
2.  What is one narrative about this system that needs to change?

Learn More


Our Presenter: John Kania

John Kania has dedicated his life to catalyzing growth and impact of social ventures through systems change. He is a preeminent nonprofit and corporate consultant, collective impact expert, and author of several highly-regarded books and articles on social change. John was Global Managing Director at FSG, for 18 years, working with clients in a variety of sectors including education, health care, global development, community development, and the environment. John is co-author of the book, Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World. He is also one of Stanford Social Innovation Review’s most frequently published authors, with recent articles: Collective Impact (2011), Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World and The Dawn of System Leadership & The Water of Systems Change.



Post Written by Bryant Sterczala