On 15-17 June 2020, the Skoll Centre’s Map the System competition held its Global Final virtually. Sharon Zivkovic shares her experience as a judge for this year’s competition and reflects on the importance of systems thinking for addressing the challenges we currently face.
As a social entrepreneur with a passion for systems change, it was an absolute honour to be a judge for the 2020 Global Finals of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship’s Map the System Competition. Holding a global competition that focuses on understanding complex challenge at a time when the world is facing its most profound and pervasive complex challenge in a generation did not go without notice. The global Covid-19 pandemic clearly brought home the need to develop skills for understanding and addressing complex global challenges.
During the Map the System competition, participating teams developed and presented a holistic view of a complex challenge of their choice by applying systems thinking tools and concepts. They undertook research to understand the landscape for their challenge, and the existing efforts that were occurring to address the challenge. With a deep contextual understanding of their issue, teams were able to identify gaps and levers of change for their challenge. The diverse topics chosen by teams this year included: violence, women, and modern slavery in Papua New Guinea; the U.S opioid epidemic; and the youth suicide crisis in India.
As a judge, I had the opportunity to read through the written submissions and analyse the visual systems maps of finalists before the Global Finals pitch event. After each team’s pitch presentation, the judges asked questions of the team members. While I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the Map the System competition, it was the opportunity to hear the responses of finalists to the judges questions that gave me the most delight. Not only had the finalists gained a systemic understanding of the challenges that they had researched, but it was very apparent from their responses to questions that they had developed meaningful relationships with the stakeholders in their challenge landscape. The finalists were also passionate about using what they have learned during Map the System to take meaningful action on their challenge beyond the time frame of the competition.
At the closing of Map the System 2020, Peter Drobac, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, stated that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic there was the opportunity for the global Map the System community to ‘Build Back Better’: to focus on building more resilient and more equitable and just systems. Peter’s comments resonated very strongly with me. In recent months I had become disheartened with messages from political leaders that suggested the direction the world needed to take in response to Covid-19 was to 'bounce back', just 'hibernate' and 'rebound'. Personally, I was more in favour of the view expressed by David Suzuki, that the COVID-19 pandemic could be an opportunity for the world to reflect and change its direction.
Reflecting on my experience – observing the significant systemic leadership skills that the finalists had developed during the Map the System 2020 process, and having spent time with an amazing global Map the System community of changemakers – I am confident that together we can ‘Build Back Better’.
Sharon Zivkovic is the Founder and CEO of Community Capacity Builders and Cofounder and Chief Innovation Officer at Wicked Lab. In partnership with government, Community Capacity Builders delivers a program for social entrepreneurs that takes a systems approach. Wicked Lab has developed an online Tool for Systemic Change that is underpinned by complex adaptive systems theory. This software assists governments and communities to address wicked problems by mapping, strengthening and transitioning ecosystems of initiatives that address the underpinning causal factors of a specific wicked problem. Wicked Lab also delivers a project-based Complex Systems Leadership Program and a program that supports the development of Systemic Innovation Labs.