The power of changing narratives for systems change

Read the full post at Forum for the Future.

How many times have you heard that the technology or the solution is there, it’s just a question of will (political or otherwise)?  This question of ‘will’ is a critical route to systems change because it reflects the culture and mind-set that dictates how a system works, and also enables (or doesn’t) new characteristics of a city, a sector or an economy to emerge.

When [American environmental scientist and author] Donella Meadows talks about the places to intervene in a system she puts ‘the mind-set out of which the system – its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters – arise’ at the top of the list of most effective ways to create profound change. That is why it is a key strategy to change systems.

But it isn’t easy. This strategy’s potency for change also makes it one of the hardest to do. Enter narratives – a significant route to mind-set change. Public narratives are stories that help us understand our world. They are everywhere – in the news, in conversations, in politics and in common assumptions – informing our world views and how we make decisions. So when working on challenges like sustainable nutrition or getting to a 1.5 degree world, we can’t just focus on the technology or the policy. In fact, the stories that people hold are so critical that they are no longer about framing, or making the case, but they are often the change that we need to focus on.

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