From time to time, based on my growing awareness and understand of the world, I tend to rethink my role in it. How can I best contribute with my skills, knowledge and interests towards a better world? Or a relative utopia as Hanzi Freinacht refers to it. As of the crazy year of 2020, this is how far I have come:
In the center are the skills and methodologies that I have found most powerful, and which I intend to develop throughout my life and career. In my case, these skills are not related to any specific discipline or area, but rather a perspective or toolkit that can be applied across a wide range of circumstances.
My journey in systems thinking began back in 2016 when I bought a copy of Donella Meadow's book Thinking in Systems. I have since expanded my understanding of this area by reading the works of Peter Senge, such as the Fifth Discipline. That perspective helped me see the application of systems thinking into organisations, and its connection to Organisational Development. In 2018, I continued by exploration by attending the School for Systems Change taught by Forum for the Future. The school of systems thinking taught there is based on Futures work, using frameworks such as Three Horizions, Change Management and Multi-Layer Perspectives to mention a few. In 2020, I designed and delivered a course for high school students in systems thinking, mainly focused on developing the mindset and a few tools based on the work already done by ThinkToolsStudio and The Waters Foundation.
In the second half of 2020, I also continued my own learning of systems thinking by training as a Warm Data Lab host with Nora Bateson and the International Bateson Institute. I found this school of systems thinking to work mainly with mental models and second-order change, and the poverty and connection to biological systems make it a true joy to read and study more of the "Bateson school" to systems thinking.
In addition, I began a training as an En-ROADS Ambassador with Climate Interactive. The En-ROADS Simulator is a computer model designed with the purpose to be powerful yet easy to use when experimenting with different climate solutions on a global scale. I have found simulators to be incredibly powerful tools for building understanding of complexity when combined with good facilitation.
I hope to continue my study of applying systems thinking to ask better questions, be more present and bring out new perspectives to help us solve the global challenges we are now facing.
While supported by the systems mindset, strategic design is more focused on applying the process and principles of design to developing creative solutions to solve complex issues. While I do not have any formal background in strategic design, I am actively looking for opportunities to learn more. Reading the works of Dan Hill, such as Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A vocabulary for strategic design and the Slowdown Papers, have provided me with a lot of inspiration. In addition, I have been following the work of Indy Johar and Dark Matter Labs. In their work, I have found the concept of building "MVPs" (Minimum Viable Product) for a new paradigm and inserting them in the right context as trojan horses. By building creative solutions for a compelx problem and designing it for a stakeholder who would have a demand for the solution, these trojan horses bring in the new and more competative paradigm in solving complex challenges.
By developing the core skills of systems thinking and strategic design, I hope to take them in the arena of the public sector. While I have experience in civil society activism and social entrepreneurship to advocate for radical change, my gut feeling keeps telling me to enter the arena of public administration and politics. I believe the state is the only institution that can lead us over to the next paradigm of a sustainable and just society.
I am currently exploring paths to enter the public arena, either through work in government and/or grassroots work with the new movement of "process-oriented political parties".
Within the arena of the public sector, I hope to simultaneously be engaged in several issues. I love the complexity of many issues and working across disciplines. At this moment, I am most interested to apply my core skills in the public arena tending to issues like climate change and justice, innovation of the education system and regulating technology to serve the public good.
Jonathan Nylander © 2020