What is needed for “Systems Change”? While this question might give rise to a million different answers, I believe that the answers to the question ‘Who is needed for “Systems Change”?’ will look more alike. I think, we would all agree that we need everyone together for systems change. To me the important aspect about everyone together is actually the together. Academia and activism, both are needed for systems change. However, if they operate independent from each other, they might not lead to desired systems change. As Karen O’Brien so nicely put it (see picture): Academia without action creates knowledge that might never leave the great walls, within which it was created. Action without knowledge, on the other hand, can lead to faulty decision making.

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(Source: Presentation at the Systems Change Conference 2017 in Oslo by Karen O’Biren “Taking Systems Change Seriously: A Call to Action”)

Nonetheless, academia as well as activism bear great potential for changing systems. In my opinion, together they can, more successfully and faster, change systems towards sustainable systems than independent from each other. The Systems Change Conference, which took place in February 2017 in Oslo, was a great opportunity to see both “world’s” potentials and to learn from each other. As I – at least for now – belong in the world of academia I have to say I was inspired by the enthusiasm of the activists and some of the achievements they presented. One of them being “car free spaces” in Barcelona. As little as some of the achievements might look in the beginning, hearing what it takes to make those “little” things happen makes them great achievements towards a more sustainable system. Of course, the car free spaces was just the beginning of a much bigger plan more 😉 . As much as I was inspired by the enthusiasm and actions the activists showed, it made me realise that dealing with the “small” and “big” questions from an academic perspective only is a part of the puzzle. Researching the behaviour of a system, without finding a solution of how to make it more sustainable is certainly not enough; even if a solution is found, it is important to find a way to implement it and make sure it has the desired impact. Clearly, one person cannot do everything all at once but that’s why it is even more important to communicate with everyone in order to be able to make a change – together. In this way, everyone can contribute with their own strengths. Organizing a conference, bringing together those two important fields of change, was a great idea and despite scaring me, it provided me with a lot of inspiration and new insights. To be honest, it is nice to live in the little academic bubble and it might also be comfortable but as scary as it is the conference once again showed me the importance of leaving this bubble – to get inspired, learn and work together towards systems change.

 

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