Systems diplomacy: is this the end of social entrepreneurship?

Last week I wrote a short post titled Now Hiring: Systems Diplomats and had a most surprising reaction. My niche little blog with its humble readership suddenly swelled, at least momentarily. There was something in this post that seemed to resonate for people very strongly.

It might have been not much more than the first two words “Now Hiring” which gave the reader some false hope that in this post was an intriguing new job available, only to realize that it was a fake ad. But the comments and feedback I received on twitter showed something more.

Firstly, to be clear, the meme explored in this post or even the name is not original. I first came across this about a year ago in conversation with a friend, colleague and fellow knowmad @edwardharran. At the time we used the term Ecosystems Diplomat.  Eddie subsequently chatted with @katemural who wrote a stellar post on ecosystems diplomacy. Kate also explored the idea of a kind of Ecosystems Diplomacy Corp. While I have been mostly unaware until recently, there have been others exploring these meme from different angles all over the world, blending it with other memes like open space technology and collective impact.

The collective impact meme was made publicly known and accessible by the team at FSG who have diligently mapped a bunch of collective impact initiatives, and created a framework for how these work. While systems diplomacy is not limited to multi-institutional collaboration, there is definite correlation with the qualities required to facilitate collective impact projects. FSG have focused very heavily on the importance and contribution of backbone organisations in these processes. Systems diplomacy can shed some light on the qualities and approaches of the people who are doing this work. Read more

Walking the middle path – the limits of vulnerability

Vulnerability has been trending of late; a meme that has captured the minds and hearts of many people I know. Moreover, it seems to have changed their behaviour. I experience myself and others being more vulnerable with each other, deepening connection and building community. While vulnerability can create greater connection, empathy and understanding, I have also experienced and witnessed it have painful consequences for people.

Brene Brown’s wonderful TED talks titled “The power of vulnerability” and “Listening to shame” have done a lot to fuel this meme. TED talks and social media offer us bite sized bits of inspiration and information. It is tempting to read 140 characters or hear an 18 minute speech and consequently conclude we are experts or accomplished in the content matter. Brene researched this field for over a decade, engaging in deep inquiry and personal exploration to understand these principles.

Whether we are acting as facilitators, educators, social workers or systems diplomats, we owe it to ourselves and the people we serve to understand these topics more fully. Vulnerability can be powerful in our work, but it can also have negative impacts.

Vulnerability is different for everyone

My experience of vulnerability started when I was young. At the time my parents and others just referred to me as a sensative child. While this was true and in more recent years has become a more endearing and useful quality, for a good period of time it caused me a great deal of angst. My natural sensitivity and willingness to be vulnerable left me open to being taken advantage of by others.

More recently I had a series of professional experiences where my being vulnerable in a Read more

Now hiring: Systems Diplomats

Position Description: Systems Diplomat

The world is seeking a team of curious, creative and humble diplomats to navigate complexity, choreograph systems and facilitate collaboration.

Context and Purpose of the Position

Communities, nations, sectors, industries and more are dealing with greater levels of complexity and diversity of participation. This complexity and diversity, and current collective lack of ability to deal with it, is in many cases around the world creating conflict, dis-ease and holding ‘systems’ back from reaching their potential.

These systems require support in being able to come together, find mutual understanding, and move forward in a graceful and effective way. Systems diplomacy helps address these challenges and move systems forward.

As opposed to ‘traditional’ diplomacy, the Systems Diplomat does not represent or speak for a particular voice or power structure within a system. This is not representative diplomacy as it is currently known. The Systems Diplomat moves fluidly between players, roles, process and relationships to increase consciousness of the system, and as a result bring about change to the system.

Systems diplomacy is not entrepreneurial as it is not goal driven. While the social entrepreneur or systems entrepreneur may seek to pursue a certain change goal, the systems diplomat is concerned with process before outcome. It trusts that the outcome is inherently known to the system, but simply lays dormant or unconscious. The diplomat seeks to make conscious that which is currently unconscious, and through this new understanding allows change to occur.

Reports to: Read more