2020 Module 1

Week 1

Narrative, Power & Complex Systems

Listen to the introduction to week 1.

Our first week is called Narrative, Power and Complex Systems.  Our social systems are built on the stories we tell about them, and story-telling has a very important role to play towards social change.  Similarly we can’t assume to change our systems without understanding and transforming the power dynamics that determine how those systems work. 

In this first week we invite you to think deeply about the story you are telling through the work that you do against the backdrop of the history and context of the African continent.  After an introduction to the characteristics of complex systems, you will consider what it means to work in them and how to engage power differently.  Finally you will apply complex systems mapping to your own work to visualise and make sense of the social impact you are trying to make.  

As we indicated in the introduction you will begin every week with a personal reflection. Please use your systems diary (online or offline) and reflect on the following prompt/question for Week 1:

“What is a question that I bring to this week that I want to grapple with for the APF systems change programme?” 

To help you identify this question reflect on the following:-  “I have come here on a quest, not merely to absorb”.  Write this in your own journal and be ready to share your thoughts at the end of the week at the “Systems Change Gathering” check in.

Remember, the purpose of this personal reflection is to allow you to check in with how you want to relate to the material, encouraging you to deepen your understanding of yourself in the system.    

Once you have completed your reflection, you can get started on the first video of week 1: The Transformative Power of Storytelling. 

Please submit your responses to the questions below here  

Question 1.1 

WatchThe Transformative Power of Storytelling.                                                                                                                               

Prompt: Share the story of your organisation, taking care to include the stakeholders, the challenges, the successes and the missteps. Help us to understand the why (and indicate where it may change over time) behind the work your organisation is currently engaging in.                                              Time: 1 – 1.5 hours

Question 1.2 

Read  How Nigeria Was Bought For £865,000 By Britain; Financial Secrecy and Capital Flight is Crippling Africa; Book Review – The Challenge for Africa; We Must Unite Now or Perish

Watch –  Power – the Elephant in the Room                                                                     

Prompt: Your organisation has a purpose that grew out of a perceived need.  Share your reflections on how Africa’s history of colonialism and neo-colonialism have contributed to the need for the work that you do.   Describe how the first 4  types of power (power over, power with, power through and power to) show up in your work.  Write your initial thoughts on how you and your colleagues could start to explore leveraging your power to empower in order to deepen the impact of the work that you do?  (You could take the suggestion in the video and brainstorm verbs that will help you enact your power to empower).                          

Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours

Question 1.3

WatchSimple Complicated Complex 

Prompt:  Do you agree that your work takes place in a complex system?  Draw on past experiences to make the supporting argument for your response taking care to include: How your work carries the characteristics of a complex system; The role of the level of expertise; The extent to which you can follow a formula that always works.

Question 1.4 

ReadTools for Systems Thinkers: The 6 Fundamental Concepts of Systems Thinking

Prompt: Choose one of the 6 concepts of systems thinking that has an immediate relevance to your work.  Describe how one of these concepts helps you understand the issue/challenge you are addressing through your work. Choose the one concept that is the hardest for you to get your head around and write down your reasons why.                                                                                

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Question 1.5 

Watch – Modelling Complexity 

Prompt: Build a model of your own complex situation – a connection circle – following the steps in the Modelling Complexity video.   

(Once you have completed the circle please take a photo of it and upload to the site). Follow the same instructions to build another model but this time use different variables OR invite different people into your group. Reflect on any interesting differences that come up from one model to the other: What does this suggest about why we map systems? What might their limitations be? What insights have you gathered about your system specifically through this exercise?                                     

Time: 2 – 3 hours.

Week 2

Planetary boundaries & people in nature

Listen to the introduction for Week 2

Congratulations!  We are now in the second week of our systems change journey.  Last week we considered what complex social systems look like, as well as the role of power and narrative in systems change.  We also invited you to self-identify as working in complex systems with distinct characteristics.  

This week our section explores “Planetary Boundaries and People in Nature”  We’re going to introduce some frameworks that help us to think about how far the parameters of your system actually extend.  Specifically, we will encourage you to consider that our social systems are nested within a broader ecological system and challenge you to consider how to pursue systems change that is transformative and sustainable both socially and ecologically.    

We will introduce you to the concept of the Planetary Boundaries both from a science-based a global North perspective, as well as a global South paradigm.

Before you start on the content, please take out your systems diary and share your reflections on the following:  

“Who are the people in my individual system, specifically who is on this quest with me, so who do I want to share with with?  What do they bring? How do they show up?” 

Once you have completed your reflection, you can get started on the first video of week 2: The Planetary Boundaries and What They Mean for the Future of Humanity.

Please submit your responses to the questions below here.

Question 2.1 

Watch The Planetary Boundaries and What They Mean for the Future of Humanity.                                                              

Prompt: Planetary Boundaries tell us that there are nine important biophysical processes of the Earth’s systems, for which the transgression of defined boundaries would have grave consequences for humanity.                                                                 

Look at your organisation and identify which one of the 9 boundaries your organisational processes are least likely to transgress and say why. Which one of the 9 is our organisation most likely to transgress?                                                                                

What processes/belief systems stand in the way of your organisation working within all 9 of the planetary boundaries?              

List what would have to change in your organisation and within your environment to encourage your organisation to work within the planetary boundaries?                                                                                                                                                                        

 Time: 1.5 hours.

Question 2.2 

Listen toMarching With Trees                                                                                                                                         

Complete: this online quiz on the most effective climate change solutions                                                                 

Prompt:  Drawing on personal experience and your reflections on complexity, power and planetary speculate/consider/reflect how you think Africa (countries, organisations, communities, individuals) can respond to the climate crisis?                             

Similarly, what are the responsibilities of the Global North to respond to the climate crisis?                                      

What kind of partnership could global South and global North enter into address the climate crisis?                                                                     

Time: 3 hours.

Week 3

Scale & intro to systems entrepreneurship/innovate finance

Listen to the introduction for Week 3

You made it to the final week! This final week is on scale and how to work across scale for systems change.  A traditional understanding of scale is that it’s about replicating an intervention/solution or programme to reach more people, however systems change and systems entrepreneurship distinguishes between different levels of scale in our systems.  This section will illuminate the different types of scale that is needed to contribute towards transformation and sustainability.  You will consider different innovative finance approaches to extending the reach and impact of your work.  And you will start to think about how you could work across scale to bring about systemic change.  

Before you start on the content, please take out your systems diary and share your reflections on the following on power: 

“Considering that you have more power than you think you do AND you carry complex power dynamics in you, identify where/what is your power and how do you use it/and for what? Are you aware of it? What new insights have you gained about your power/power in the system? How is power used in your system in different ways?”

Remember that the purpose of this personal reflection is to allow you to check in with how you are relating to the material, as well as to deepen your understanding of yourself in your system.  

Once you have completed your reflection, you can get started on the first video of week 3: Scaling Social Innovation.

Please submit your responses to the questions below here

Question 3.1 

Watch Frances Westley on Scaling Social Innovation.                                                                                                    

Prompt: What is the difference between scaling up, out and deep and give examples of how your work is already doing each of these types of scale.                                                                                                                                                                              

Identify opportunities for your work to scale up, out and deep? How does scaling up, out and deep relate to Systems Change? What is your understanding of institutional/systems entrepreneurship and how it relates to different types of scale?                 

 Share reasons why (or why not) you can see your organisation taking on the role of institutional entrepreneurship?              

Time: 1.5 – 2 hours

Question 3.2 

Watch: Rethinking Innovation and Scale.                                                                                                                                                 

How can your work make a difference at scale in the Earth’s system? How has your work created change in the dynamics of the system that cause the problem in the first place?  How has it not?                                                                                                    

Refer to Michele-Lee Moore’s (the second speaker in the video) piece about the niche, regime and landscape to answer the question: which levels of scale your organisation needs to undertake and why?                                                                               

Time: 1- 1.5 hours

Question 3.3 


Biofuels in Brazil: alternative or disaster?

This video is a cautionary tale on how scaling something that seems to be good can cause negative unintended consequences in the broader system.  What (negative) unintended consequences could be caused by scaling the work of your organisation? 

Time: 1 – 1.5 hours

Question 3.4

Watch: Power and Love: Adam Kahane at TED-X.                                                                                                                                        

Does Kahane’s conceptualisation about the “two sides of power” resonate with your own organisation’s objectives (self-realisation mission)? 

How does love, as Kahane speaks about it, present itself in your organisation?                                               

Does Kahane’s argument about working with power and love complicate or simplify your understanding of how to advance social change in a system?


Innovative Finance 

Question 3.5 


Innovative Finance Course: Identifying revenue streams (video 3 2)                                                                                          

Innovative Finance Course: Identifying revenue streams Part 2 (video 3 3)                                                                                 

Innovative Finance Course: Monetizing assets case study final (video 3 7)                                                                             

Innovative Finance Course: Adapting risk for different funders part 2 (video 4 6)                                                                           


Innovative Finance in Africa Review page 35-61                                                                                                                                     

Meet the Change Agents Who Are Enabling Inequality by Joseph E. Stiglitz                                  

How to vet your investors – and why you must by Alex Evangelides                                                                                               


3.5.1 The videos from the Innovative Finance Course will cover potential revenue models often used by impact enterprises; do some of them apply to your organisation?                                                                                                                                                          

3.5.2 The 4th video from the Innovative Finance Course as well as the reading from the Innovative Finance in Africa Review cover different funding models; do some of them apply to your organisation and if so, how might they be tailored to fit your needs – can you build a straw man of an innovative finance model for your organisation based on the revenue and funding models presented here?                                    

3.5.3 The reading by Joseph E. Stiglitz is his take on the book ‘Winners Take All’ by Anand Giridharas. Both of them highlight some of the systemic issues of the impact investing / social impact sector by for instance questioning the power dynamics in a system where the elite “reinforces our lopsided economic reality”. Does this take on the impact investing / social impact sector have any relevance to your organisation and experiences?                                                                                                                              

3.5.4 Speaking of power, the final reading by Alex Evangelides is a call to impact organisations to due diligence their social investors (the vice versa is certain). The article outlines a methodology of how to go about this; is it of relevance to you and your organisations as well your existing and future funder relationships? 

Time: 2.5 – 3 hours.