From Change Initiatives to Change Systems: part 1

Global change systems are evolving all around us. But is there a way to strengthen them and speed the pace of transformation to address critical issues of health, climate and poverty? In Milan last week a dozen people met for a day and a half to explore innovative frameworks to answer that question. They left with enthusiasm and a belief that the new approach holds great promise that they want to test on some specific issues.

The meeting was the culmination of over a year of work by the GOLDEN Energy Ecosystem Lab.  It represents

a basic research effort to develop innovative, action-enabling frameworks, tools and insights with a focus on the global electricity system: generation-transmission-distribution-consumption.  It has looked at change efforts of multi-organizational networks and change initiatives, including the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the Electricity Governance Initiative, the Electricity Utilities Project of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) and the World Electricity Council;  it also included the big intergovernmental organizations like the UNEP, the IEA and IRENA.  The original questions were about “who” was in the global electricity system change business, and what they were doing.  Webcrawls helped identify the organizations and maps of relationships. The map here shows how the world of change initiatives clusters around specific focal interests.

The original questionsproduced as core concepts the change system and the production system that the change system is trying to transform…this unit of analysis/action is based on the concept of a change system comprising “change initiatives” such as those listed above that are external to production organizations (typically corporations, parastatals) that comprise the production system.  The two systems are visualized as being similar to the DNA double helix model shown here:  tightly intertwined with strong connections, but with distinct goals requiring distinct competencies.

Looking at the hundreds of organizations mapped in the webcrawl the question naturally arose: Why are so many change initiatives needed?  What are they doing?  An analysis of 65 of them led to identification of five change subsystems, focused on specific subsets of the overall change task.  These subsystems are distinguished by their work content and the role of stakeholder groups.  They are:

1.  Policy Change Subsystem:  This is the policy-making system of governmental bodies, including regulators and legislators at the local, national, regional and global levels.  Other stakeholders engage in co-production of rules and policies.  This system includes efforts to change the fundamental public policy governance structures.

2.  Innovation Change Subsystem:  This sub-system produces new technologies.  Its initiating leadership is researchers and research organizations, and involves in prototyping government agencies, NGOs, and companies that are developing new technologies and innovations.  Scaling of innovations is part of the service provider change subsystem (below), the distinction being that different stakeholders and competencies are then engaged.

3. Finance Change Subsystem:  This sub-system is about innovating and influencing financial markets and tools to enhance the flow of capital to sustainable electricity production.  This includes both public and private sector capital.

4.  Service Provider Change Subsystem:  This refers to the infrastructure that generates, transmits and distributes electricity.  Historically it is referred to as “electric utilities”, both public and private.  Some technological innovations imply significant disruption in this subsystem, such as decentralized generation.  This raises substantial business model issues.

5.  Consumer Change Sub-System:  This change subsystem is about demand for electricity and how it is used, how to influence it and consumers’ changing role in the emerging service provider system.  Strategically it is useful to divide it into commercial and retail consumers.

This is the first of three blogs on this topic.  Go here to see the second blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *