The Systems Work of Social Change by Cynthia Rayner and François Bonnici

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The issues of poverty, inequality, racial justice, and climate change have never been more pressing or paralyzing. Current approaches to social change, which rely on industrial models of production and power to « solve » social problems, are not helping. In fact, they are designed to entrench the status quo. In The Systems Work of Social Change, Cynthia Rayner and François Bonnici draw on two hundred years of history and a treasure trove of stories of committed social changemakers to uncover principles and practices for social change that radically depart from these approaches.

Rather than delivering « solutions, » these principles and practices focus on the process of change itself. Through rich storytelling and lucid analysis, Rayner and Bonnici show that connection, context, and power sit at the heart of the change process, ensuring broader agency for people and communities to create social systems that are responsive and representative in a rapidly changing world. Simple yet profound, this book distills a timely set of lessons for practitioners, leaders, scholars, and policymakers.

About the authors

Cynthia Rayner, Senior Researcher, Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, and François Bonnici, Director, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

Cynthia Rayner is a researcher, writer, lecturer, and social change practitioner affiliated with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB). Her research focuses on social innovation and how organizations and communities work to shape social systems in collaborative ways. She advises social enterprises and investors in the design of sustainable business and investment models to achieve positive outcomes for society. She was a fellow with LGT Venture Philanthropy developing a government integration strategy for a peer-based support model for mothers living with HIV, and served as program director for a South Africa-based NGO providing support and education to children.

François Bonnici is physician, professor, and social change practitioner with over two decades of experience working across multiple countries, systems, and sectors. Deeply rooted in context and frontline work in his formative years, he has worked extensively with civil society, foundations, and multilateral actors, in both the public and private sector, in progressive and catalytic partnerships that seek to advance the work of front-line agents and understand the organizational practices of “systems work” towards more transformative social change. He serves as the Director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a leading international foundation that has been dedicated to advancing the most impactful models to social change for over two decades.

Photo courtesy and text copyright: Oxford University Press

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