The scale and urgency of global challenges are indicative of how poorly our current ways of approaching have failed in creating balanced systems.
Stanford ChangeLabs is a network, a lab, and a global platform generating new paradigms to initiate rapid, large-scale change. Their goal is to equip global leaders and innovators with new frameworks, so they can engage in ill-defined complex issues and prescribe actionable interventions that are designed for scaled impact.
Banny Banerjee, Founder & Director of Stanford ChangeLabs, chose Kumu as the mapping platform for his class at the Stanford d.school on launching large scale sustainable transformations. The course pairs students with external partners working on real world challenges and thrusts them into a 10-week journey learning to analyze and understand the system and propose scalable, behaviorally-informed strategies.
Students completed interviews with stakeholders across the system to create an ethnographically-informed understanding of the motivations, beliefs, constraints, and agency of each stakeholder group. Using the insights from these interviews, they were able to map the relationships among different stakeholders, identifying the relative power, perceptions, and value flows that exist between stakeholders.
These insights exposed some of the core drivers of behavior across the system and help avoid the dreaded "faceplant" that is all too common by neglecting to understand the cultural aspects of the challenge.
The students paired their ethnography with a detailed dive on the dynamics of the system. By using a modified "5 whys" approach to the issues and what causes and effects each issue has, students were able to visually map how all of the different issues interrelate.
A "systems storm" is a directed brainstorm that is meant to bring to the surface high-leverage ways of engaging a system to create desired outcomes. By asking a series of "how might we..." questions, students identify the outcomes they are looking to change or create, the possible leverage points that could lead to those outcomes, and the mechanisms that might enable them to move the leverage points. This whole process is informed and supported by the systems and stakeholder maps.
By the end of the course students have built a deep understanding of the challenge, envisioned an alternate future and desired outcomes, strategized a theory of change and platform architecture, designed behaviorally-robust strategies for engaging the system, and proposed this work to their external partner in an effort to influence their approach to the challenge.
The next generation of leadership is going to be about transforming systems at scale, and finding solutions that simultaneously meet the needs of society while addressing the massive environmental challenges that we are in the midst of.