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University Center Room 7

2200 Dendrinos Drive

Traverse City, MI 49684

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Some problems persist despite decades of effort and huge investments – health disparities, food insecurity, homelessness, drug addiction, climate change. No one individual or organization can solve any of these problems on their own because they arise from a complex system of many interconnected factors. Changemakers in our region, and all over the world, have been experimenting with new ways of working together on the factors that are causing complex problems.

A systems change approach offers new promise for making durable progress on our most intractable community problems. However, we know that working together toward systems change can be difficult. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There is not a reliable road map. Results are not immediate.

This new Systems Change On-Ramp series will help prepare changemakers to engage in systems change work. It will also highlight the common pit stops most groups visit and return to again and again as they experiment with systems change in an iterative way.

These interactive learning sessions, curated by Freya Bradford, will explore the terrain around each pit stop, experiment with tools and best practices, and workshop real challenges from participants. Groups from across the region are in different phases of their work. Join the session that makes the most sense for you and your team, or join us for all four.

September 26, 9am-noon
I. Convening Allies & Making Shared Governance Decisions

October 29, 9am-noon
II. Exploring Complex Problems & Finding Leverage Points for Change

January 8, 9am-noon
III. Designing Systems Change Strategies

January 23, 9am-noon
IV - Learning as you Go

Participants of the Systems Change On-Ramp Series are also eligible to join in our monthly Collaboration & Systems Change Open Space.

September 26 - I. Convening Allies & Making Shared Governance Decisions
with Megan Olds, Parallel Solutions

We know we can’t solve complex community problems alone, but how do we bring changemakers together around a common purpose? Once people come together, how do we agree on a process to work together? How do we make decisions in a way that aligns with our values and our purpose? How do we make sure we’re creating welcoming spaces to hear critical voices and opinions different from ours? How do we clarify goals and roles and hold each other accountable? This workshop will share case studies and lessons learned. It is designed for new conveners, those feeling stuck in the way their networks are moving forward, and those who want to deepen their knowledge, tools, and connections with others.

October 29 - II. Exploring Complex Problems & Finding Leverage Points for Big Change
with Freya Bradford & Josh Stoltz

It is natural to think we know the solutions to the problems we’ve been working with our whole careers. Each of us does have an important perspective, but it is only part of a larger whole. The truest picture of a complex issue includes the diverse understanding of many, including those most affected by the issue.

How do we “see together” in complex environments? Seeing complex problems in their messy, interconnected patterns allows powerful leverage points for change to emerge. Many teams in this region have created causal loop maps through a Systems Practice Course. Causal loop mapping is a great tool, but it may not be the best fit for every group. This session will present alternative tools for this important step in systems change.

This session is great for changemakers from existing groups who want to deepen their shared understanding of the issue they are working on.

January 8 - III. Designing Systems Change Strategies
with Freya Bradford & Rotary Charities Systems Change Accelerator grantees

Most of the work in the social sector targets the people or environments experiencing a problem to help them transcend the problem. We need these efforts as long as we have systems that are not working for everyone. But, if this is all we do, our problems will persist. Systems change strategies offer an upstream complement by targeting the systemic structures creating the problem. Systems change strategies are a restructuring of how things work and aim to change things like policies, practices, relationships, and resource flows so that fewer and fewer people or environments ever experience a problem. We will explore this critical pit stop by:

  • unpacking the targets of systems change

  • sharing some existing systems change strategies from our region and beyond

  • beginning a discussion about the signs of change we must learn to see and celebrate

This session will be best for changemakers from existing groups who have explored their issue together and are ready to design new actions aimed at systems change.

January 23 - IV. Learning as You Go
with Freya Bradford

Change in any complex community problem takes sustained effort and time. While we may not see change right away in the big targets we’re aiming at, there will be intermediate signs that indicate how systems are responding to change efforts. These signs of systems change can be hard to notice and make sense of together. However, these important signs are what help us continuously adapt in our dynamic environments. Learning and sensemaking should be the most regular pit stop a team makes.

We will explore practices and tools for creating an environment and culture that enables rapid cycle feedback and learning.

This session can be valuable for changemakers from any group or team who wants to learn together on an on-going basis.


Meet Megan Olds, Parallel Solutions

Parallel Solutions is a Traverse City-based consulting firm supporting public, private and not-for profit clients in the Great Lakes region by providing strategic and business planning, organizational development, public-private and inter-jurisdictional partnership coordination, community and stakeholder engagement, facilitation, communications, and fundraising services. With 20 years of experience, Megan has supported projects and served clients on efforts related to community growth and development, housing, transportation, healthcare, food and farming, land and water conservation and restoration, parks and trails, and arts and culture. She is passionate about designing and guiding processes and holding space for people to come together to align visions, get unstuck, create action plans, allocate resources, and make things happen to strengthen their communities. You can learn more at parallelmi.com.

Meet Freya Bradford

Freya Bradford has been a part of the NorthSky and Rotary family for over 11 years. She grew up in Traverse City and spent many years in the Lansing area for undergraduate and graduate study at Michigan State University. She started her career in public health research and evaluation in juvenile justice, partner violence, and Native American Tribal justice systems. She returned to Leelanau County in 2004 and worked for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians to develop and evaluate services for Tribal members. Most recently, Freya has helped to lead our evolution to an upstream strategy that supports systems change to address the root causes of our most complex community problems.

Meet Josh Stoltz

Josh Stoltz grew up weeding the garden, feeding the chickens and stacking firewood at his home in Benzie County. He graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts with minors in both Marketing and Advertising. His "Midwest work ethic" and Michigander attitude provided ample opportunity to shine in sales and marketing, and he opened several companies throughout Arizona and Florida before age 30. Following a short "retirement" living and traveling in a school bus called "The Future", he married his soulmate, purchased a home in Frankfort, and set out to rekindle and spark professional relationships in the community through his work with SEEDS After School program. He was hired as Grow Benzie's first full-time Executive Director in 2014, where he grows the mission to foster positive activity that increases access to healthful foods, jobs, life skills, and each other and provide a space that nurtures this activity. In 2018 Josh became Rotary Charities' first Changemaker Fellow, attending Forum for the Future's Basecamp School of Systems Change.

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2200 Dendrinos Drive

Traverse City, MI 49684

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