With the current economic, environmental and societal upheavals, and at a time when voter confidence is taking an abysmal plunge, a new kind of expert is born… Charmian Love is the cofounder and director of Volans, a company specializing in innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable development. Rachel Sinha is cofounder of Finance Innovation Lab, an innovation think-tank in the financial sector. They proclaim loud and clear: “Politics is dead, long live the systempreneurs.”
Like their close cousins the entrepreneurs and the intrapreneurs, the systempreneurs mobilize their resources and look for innovative solutions to tackle major challenges. But rather than concentrating (as entrepreneurs do) on the challenges posed by company growth or (as intrapreneurs do) on the change processes inherent to the organization, systempreneurs focus on the major political, economic and societal issues of our era, and on the systemic changes that these issues warrant. From health to finance, the systempreneurs are committed to finding comprehensive and ingenious means of improvement by applying an entrepreneurial mindset – that is to say, an ambitious and innovative approach – to major key issues.
Take, for example, Finance Innovation Lab: to promote more democratic, responsible and fair financing, Rachel Sinha created a business incubator program that supports new businesses models that bring diversity to the financial system, and that enable civil participants to act as counterweights to the already established lobbies.
Another example: David Porter, a systempreneur with Healthcare Venture Fund, who for a few years has been looking at the crises in the various worldwide health systems, crises due in large part to the ageing of populations. His work sheds light on a certain number of possible paths by which innovation and the entrepreneurial mindset may help beat the major challenges posed by the “money tsunami.” (Close to one in three American workers will be over 50 years old in 2012.)
The systempreneurs share the idea that, combined with a healthy dose of political will, business sense and the entrepreneurial mindset will help create a capitalist system adapted to the challenges of the future. According to Charmian Love and Rachel Sinha, they all have the specific ability to map out a path, a course of action, through the often paralyzing complexity.
To do this, they are in fact generally masters of communication: they manage to reconcile points of views that are theoretically irreconcilable by creating “neutral” spaces in which pioneers can meet, test their ideas, refine their opinions, create improbable alliances, and focus on the objective, that is to say, on actions that can lead to change.
American architect and futurist inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller wrote: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
The systempreneurs develop innovative activities likely to play a key role in any systemic change (The Civic Foundry, a movement that enables citizens to create new services to help local communities). They experiment in the field of public services and then import the results of this experimentation into the existing public sectors (like Participle in the field of ageing), and they support the emergence of new markets (such as the Criterion Institute, whose approach is to “reinvent the economy by engaging individuals and institutions”).
Most of our systems – energy, finance, food – were designed in an era when the environment, sustainable development and the distribution of wealth were not the urgent issues that they are today. By approaching these crucial questions with the optimism, energy, ambition and risk-taking that are inherent to the entrepreneurial mindset, systempreneurs may be called upon to play a determining role in the search for viable solutions and ways to work around sterile and obsolete power dynamics.