This blog post was originally published on the Re-Code website. It has been reproduced here with the author’s permission.
A few months ago I posted our initial thinking and plans for evaluating Re-Code’s systems change work. The post describes the complexity of evaluating systems change, and you can see our first steps here. And if you want to dig a bit deeper, check out Kathryn Meisner’s post about the site’s development.
So what are we learning about how to effect change? Even in these early days, we’ve started to see some patterns.
Plan for your plan not to work – at least not how you planned it
Good planning is helpful and necessary, but when planning for systems change, system entrepreneurs would be well-served to read Henry Mintzberg and his writings on Emergent Strategy. “Instead of the deliberate approach, the emergent approach is the view that strategy emerges over time as intentions collide with, and accommodate, a changing reality” (Karl Moore, Ivey Business Journal).
Given that our very activities bring about a constantly changing reality, we need to concurrently and constantly adapt our actions and plans. Success in this context is deeply connected to our capacity to adapt, even if in the particular moment when nothing is going according to plan, it might not feel like it.
The more mindful we are of advancing language that is inclusive of the diversity of the ecosystem and includes working definitions that enables collective work and shared understanding.
We must also learn to question. Questioning language and labels is a critical part of understanding the intricacies and nuances of our work and necessary to ensure terms are not being ‘greenwashed’ into meaningless. Re-Code’s Danica Straith reflected on this contested terrain in the blog post, (Not) Just Semantics.
Bring a compass, not a map
This is one we know already, but it’s worth repeating. The path to social change is poorly signposted and a challenge to navigate. Sometimes the best we can do is identify our North Star; the touchstone that guides our decision making. A North Star or touchstone are invaluable compasses for staying true to our original intentions, even and especially when we don’t know the way forward.
For many schools, enhancing student learning is their Re-Code North Star. What’s yours? We’d like to hear about what guides your work forward. Share your North Stars with us on Twitter and Facebook by using #Re-Code1yr.