Leverage Points Meets Sustainable Transformation: Speeding Up Sustainability Progress and 101 Mindset Barriers to It

24 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2020

See all articles by Matt Polsky

Matt Polsky

Erasmus University Rotterdam - International Off Campus PhD Program in Cleaner Production

Date Written: January 30, 2020

Abstract

Big societal changes are very likely necessary to address climate change and other environmental and social problems—and fast. But there are no methods, ideas, or Theories of Change (ToC) that can sufficiently and reliably guide us. As part of the exploratory research period for a Ph.D. thesis on big societal changes, the author attended conferences in two related academic fields that study big societal change, Sustainability Transformations and Sustainability Transitions. The conferences were: “Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation” at Leuphana University, a main focus of this article; and “The 10th Annual International Sustainable Transitions Conference,” Carlton University. These fields have believed that such changes must take decades—but it is too risky to assume we still have that much time. The first conference focused on retrieving and inserting one of the classic frameworks of complex systems giant Donella Meadows into the Sustainable Transformations field. It explored whether the metaphor of leverage points and some of the characteristics of Meadows’ original 12-level hierarchical model could fit within this field and, in particular, increasing systems level-impact in exchange for relatively low levels of effort.The first conference was largely successful in re-discovering some of the potential of the leverage points framework, a major accomplishment as it could be one such way to accelerate big societal changes. The ideas presented must be extended much further. However, some mindset barriers were shown at that first conference, but were partially overcome at the second conference. A large number of mindset barriers are also discussed in this paper based on the author’s decades-long experience as a change-agent. Given the surprising quantity and range of mindset barriers, the author hypothesized that they are an unexpected obstacle to big societal change. Since mindset barriers were shown even at such a conference explicitly aiming for big societal changes, this is early evidence that mindset barriers are both pervasive and correctable. It was also realized that problematic mindsets are actually an interpretation of the second highest-ranking of the 12 leverage points, which indicates their importance as obstacles to systemic change. Whereas trying to address them is consistent with the highest ranking leverage point: challenging the paradigm/mindset.

Keywords: Accelerating Change, Leverage Points, Mindset Barriers, Sustainable Transformation

Suggested Citation

Polsky, Matt, Leverage Points Meets Sustainable Transformation: Speeding Up Sustainability Progress and 101 Mindset Barriers to It (January 30, 2020). OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 12, No. 12, pp. 19-42, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3571767

Matt Polsky (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam - International Off Campus PhD Program in Cleaner Production ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA
Netherlands

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