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Published Articles

2016. Societal Change Systems: A Framework to Address Wicked Problems

Waddell, Steve. 2016. “Societal Change Systems:  A framework and tool to address wicked problems.” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 52(4):422-40.

Issues such as climate change, poverty, sustainable agriculture, and health care are described as wicked, messy, complex, and multi-level: they involve many hundreds of organizations at a national level; at a global level this easily increases to many thousands. Their dynamics are constantly changing with changes in knowledge, power, resources and other factors. Emerging their collective power into an effective force represents an enormous organizing challenge. Drawing from complexity and global networking knowledge, and building on the concept of “innovation system,” a new article develops the concept of “societal change system” (SCS) as a framework to support addressing the organizing challenge.

The insights arose through analysis of global change initiatives aiming to integrate sustainability concerns into the production of electricity, which included a meeting of leaders of such change initiatives. The activities produced recommendations for greatly enhancing change efforts with pragmatic steps to develop the societal change system in which they are embedded.

2015. Large Systems Change: An Emerging Field of Transformation and Transitions

Waddell, S., Waddock, S., Cornell, S., Dentoni, D., McLachlan, M., & Meszoely, G. (2015). Large Systems Change: An Emerging Field of Transformation and Transitions. Journal of Corporate Citizenship(58).

In this paper we put forward a theory of large systems change (LSC), where large systems are defined as having breadth (i.e. engaging large numbers of people, institutions, and geographies) and depth (i.e. changing the complex relationships among elements of power and structural relationships simultaneously). We focus primarily on transformational LSC, recognising that such systems are complex adaptive systems in which change is continuous and emergent, but directions can be supported. A typology of change actions with two core dimensions—‘confrontation’ and ‘collaboration’ on the horizontal axis and ‘generative’ and ‘ungenerative’ change on the vertical—suggests that change strategies can be classified into four broad archetypes: forcing change, supporting change, paternalistic change, or co-creating change. LSC theory development focuses on three core questions: what is the foundation of LSC concepts and methods, what needs to change, and how does LSC occur? We conclude by reviewing how papers in the Special Issue fit into these questions.

2014. Large Systems Change: Producing the Change We Want

Waddell, Steve, Hsueh, Joe, Birney, Anna, Khorsani, Amir, & Feng, Wen. (2014). Turning point – large systems change: Producing the change we want. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 2014(53), 5-8. doi: 10.9774/

Transformation and large systems change is not something that can be planned. However, understanding change pathways can support strategies to enhance our ability to produce desired futures. Systems mapping provides a range of ways to visualise change systems, a concept that is introduced here as critical to understanding change pathways. This is followed by a proposal of how to look at the DNA of these systems through two additional concepts: five sub-systems and seven functions in each of those systems.

2013. Learning & transformative networks to address wicked problems: A golden invitation.

Learning & transformative networks to address wicked problems: A golden invitation.  Steve Waddell, Milla McLachlan, and Domenico Dentoni.  International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 16(A), 23-32. Reprint:  The Non-Profit Quarterly Fall/Winter 2013, 26-33.

This essay explores the role of learning networks in strengthening the transformative potential of multi-stakeholder initiatives in the agro-food sector. It begins with reflections on the learning needs of a regional multi-stakeholder initiative in the agro-food sector, the Southern Africa Food Lab (SAFL). Then, the essay introduces an emerging learning network, namely GOLDEN for Sustainability. GOLDEN is a global learning network currently developing outside the agricultural and food sector, but with the ambition of including the agro-food sector. The authors are all connected to GOLDEN, and through this article they aim to leverage the International Food and Agribusiness Management Review (IFAMR) platform as a tool for developing such networks (Dentoni et al. 2012) and to invite agro-food organizations to participate in learning networks such as GOLDEN.

2013. Inter-Organizational Learning: A new frontier

Inter-Organizational Learning:  A new frontier., January(46), 3-6.

Steve Waddell, Heinz Greijn, Koen Faber, Jonas Haertle, Annalisa Mauro

Abstract:  Without good learning strategies, inter-organizational networks will fall well below their potential and spend resources repeating mistakes needlessly.  Yet, there is little known about inter-organizational learning.  This article proposes a framework for developing an inter-organizational learning strategy, and discusses challenges to its successful development.

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