As we embark on 2022, everywhere we look systems are moving through profound transitions. These transitions are welcome and sorely needed in the face of intensifying climate change, growing inequalities and unrest, complex disinformation dynamics, and other emergent challenges. But many systems are ill-equipped and ill-designed to respond to current pressures and at odds with what is required to meet a new set of goals.
Reos Partners works across a diversity of systems – from the fashion system in Brazil to the energy system in the North of the Netherlands, the justice system in Nigeria, and many others. As we advance further into the “decisive decade” of the 2020s, we frequently notice an increasing clarity and improved articulation of new visions, and of the guiding principles for new systems:
“From an exploitative and polluting fashion system to a sustainable and circular one.”
“From a fossil-fuel dependent energy system to a decarbonized one.”
“From a rules- and institutions- driven justice system to a people-centred one.”
The centrality of collaboration
These visions all imply new guiding “North Stars” for the systems, new structures, new rules, and new sets of relationships – between humanity and nature, between people and institutions, between North and South.
Part of the challenge – in the words of one of our partners – lies in the “pain of the how”. It is possible to articulate visions, set targets, invest in technologies and innovations, and design great plans. But what about conflicting interests? What about trade-offs? What about partnership breakdowns? What about power? How do we give consideration to the needs and voices of different stakeholders to ensure that transitions accommodate social, economic, and environmental imperatives, rather than being imposed in a top-down manner and with an unjust cost to certain groups of society?
Much of this “pain of the how” has to do with the difficulties and frustrations associated with collaboration. Each of these ambitious system transitions requires a multiplicity of collaborations – between scientists and decision-makers, between regulators and innovators, between business and government, among different implementing agencies, across cultures, and so on. Sometimes even among competitors. They require compromises, letting go, sharing of responsibility, and co-creation.
A transformative approach
At Reos, we take a transformative approach to system transitions. One that embraces a diversity of perspective, enables dialogue across power levels, fosters ownership and participation, and builds collaborative relationships and capabilities. One that supports stakeholders to interrogate and change the rules of the game of their system and their own role in it. One that alleviates the “pain of the how” by embracing rather than avoiding it.
In 2022, we hope to further enable and accelerate system transitions by enhancing the many forms of collaboration they depend on to succeed.