Systemic change, complexity and development

In this dialogue, Dr Jean Boulton (Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath), lead author of Embracing Complexity, is in conversation with Prof Belinda Reyers (GRAID, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Future Africa, Univ Pretoria). They explore how complexity thinking can inform our understanding of how change comes about, and, based on their practical experience, the implications for International Development. Complexity-informed frameworks can provide perspectives that are better aligned to the challenges faced in a world that is increasingly complex, volatile and hard to anticipate. Follow these links to specific sections of the video:
1. Embracing complexity 00:14
2. Complexity & methods 06:09
3. Focus on intervention vs. focus on context 12:28
4. The role of the past 16:29

Complexity Science as Relationship, Patterning and Process

Jean Boulton is author of the best-selling book “Embracing Complexity: strategic perspectives for an age of turbulence” (2015). She is affiliated to both Bath and Cranfield universities. Her background in theoretical physics coupled with her practical engagement in the fields of management and social research – both through academia, consulting, hands-on management and working as a director, strategy consultant and trustee – give her a multi-faceted, informed and practical perspective on the implications of embracing complexity.

Impredicative Relationality – The Heart of Complexity

Jannie Hofmeyr is co-founder of the CST and emeritus professor of biochemistry and biocomplexity at Stellenbosch University. Over the past 35 years, he has conducted his research in the field of Computational System Biology with the regulation and regulatory design of metabolism as his main focus. More recently, his work focuses on describing the functional organisation of the living cell for which he developed a theory of molecular fabrication to inform a theoretical basis for both system biology and nanotechnology. During 2017-18 he was the president of the Royal Society of South Africa (RSSAf).

Complexity, Process, and the Shift in Modern Science

Brian Arthur is an economist and complexity thinker.He is best known for his work on network effects locking markets in to the domination of a single player. He is also one of the pioneers of the science of complexity—the science of how patterns and structures self-organize—and a founding member of the Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico, USA). His most recent book “Complexity and the Economy” (2015) provides a new framework for viewing the economy not as a system in equilibrium but as one in motion, perpetually constructing itself anew. In 2008 he was the (inaugural) winner of Lagrange Prize, complexity’s highest international award.

An African search for a relational theory of radical change

Mark Swilling is Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University where he is also Academic Director of the Sustainability Institute and Co-Director of CST. He is co-author with Eve Annecke of “Just Transitions: Explorations of Sustainability in an Unfair World” (2012). His new book entitled Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World will be published by Routledge in late 2019. His research interests connect global sustainability transitions, theories of change, relational complexity in the African context (Ukama), sustainability-oriented governance, complexity-based development economics, the renewable energy revolution, and urban transitions. His last book was Shadow State: the Politics of State Capture (2018).

Reflections on Systemic Change

Contemporary definitions of the notion of resilience highlights the fact that resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and transformation. Understanding how systems change remains a challenge in navigating the complexity of the Anthropocene towards resilience and sustainability. Louis Klein, dean of the European School of Governance (www.eusg.eu), challenges our understanding of change and shows ways how and why to organise for purpose and transform social systems based on insights into systemic change, leverage and mind shift. Systems change is not so much about getting things done; it is the art of letting things grow.