Transformations Systems and AR

“Transformations Systems” and AR
Steve Waddell – AR+ Member, SDG Transformations Forum Lead Staff, Networking Action Principal

AR has an important role to play in the development of “transformations systems”. That concept easily provokes confused frowns at first, but it is relatively simple. It grew out of conversations around the development of the SDG Transformations Forum with people, including Hilary Bradbury, who are working on transformational change in contrast to incremental and reform. Transformation is distinguished from other types of change by profoundly challenging assumptions and traditional goals, power structures and processes, ways of thinking and analysing – with the belief that those are limiting us from effectively addressing challenges like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The work of all those people interviewed and others who are working on transformation, collectively form “transformations systems”. Just as we have food systems to provide food, we need transformations systems to support societies’ transformational work.
However, the transformations systems are not very developed today, as can be seen with intransigence and prolonged crises. The systems are highly fragmented, skills and knowledge are relatively low, and the ability to work at scale that transformation requires is lacking. The diagram represents the fragmentation in terms of knowledge and action relevant to transformation.

Each of the Forum’s Working Groups are seen as “subsystems” of transformation systems, working on particular issues that must be addressed to develop powerful transformations systems. There must be system “consciousness” of those working in it, and connections are required amongst those in the transformations systems to support collaboration and smooth exchanges.
AR brings key qualities – I like to call them “stances” that are key to transformations, given the importance of learning how to act with new mindsets and in new ways. This includes the emphasis upon reflexivity, the emphasis on experimentation, and the commitment to support human and environmentally-sensitive change. The work of AR+ is particularly relevant to the Forum’s Capacity Working Group, which aims to emerge a capacity development system for transformations with a million transformation change agents by 2030.
Of course, transformational action is highly unpredictable in terms of directions, but much recent work suggests people are learning better how to take deliberative transformational action and nudge our current world in desired directions – such as realization of the SDGs and flourishing futures for all!