Systems leadership

Tools, patterns, lived experience


Today we know there is a need to do things differently, especially when working with complex systems. The lone wolf, the frontiersman, the all-powerful superhero—these old myths and images no longer serve our efforts towards social and environmental change. New ways of leading, grounded in a systems and cultural lens, are shining light on ways forward.

Working systemically involves a specific set of challenges—from navigating power and difficult relationships to collaborating in new ways, working across difference, and understanding your own role in the system. It requires a mindset shift as we slowly get used to the idea that we are not going to transform a system overnight. Rather, we nudge it towards a better direction, over the long term.

In this stream we will build skills and capacities needed to work on complex problems. Using a system mapping tool, we will identify levers and opportunities for action. We will exchange experiences and tools with peers, and surface insights and patterns across communities. We will weave and reflect on our experiences of working across different levels of scale, from the personal and relational to the systemic. By the end of the stream you will leave with new skills and tools, and a sense of camaraderie and community.

Tatiana Fraser is an award-winning social innovator and published author. She has over 20 years experience leading and scaling systems innovations, creating strategic learning networks, and building movements. Tatiana is co-founder, with Rachel Sinha, of Systems Sanctuary, an online platform that builds peer-to-peer communities of support for systems leaders. She is also working collaboratively with Ashoka Global and Status of Women Canada to bridge resources and build ecosystem practice at the intersection of gender and innovation. Tatiana is co-founder of the Girls Action Foundation and co-author of Girl Positive: How Girls Are Shaping a New World (Random House 2016). She is a speaker on issues of social innovation, social change, gender and leadership. She is an Ashoka Fellow, one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women (Women’s Executive Network), the recipient of the McGill Alumni James G Wright Award, and the Champion of Lifelong Learning by the Quebec Association of Lifelong Learning. She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees including The UN Commission on the Status of Women, The Carold Institute, Food Secure Canada, Exeko, and Actua among others. Mother of two and living in Montreal, she holds a BA in Women’s Studies and an MBA from McGill University.

Annika Voltan is Executive Director of Inspiring Communities, a network of projects and partners committed to changing the way government, residents, communities, and businesses tackle complex problems such as poverty, addictions, and isolation in Nova Scotia. In this role she works closely with provincial stakeholders in government, the community sector, academia and business to develop partnerships and identify opportunities to maximize social impact. Her experience across federal and provincial government departments, academia and businesses enables her to skillfully build bridges between sectors. Annika brings inspirational energy to building a transparent learning environment with a long-term focus on systems change. She is a PhD Candidate at Saint Mary’s University, focusing on social entrepreneurship and social impact assessment. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, she is dedicated to breaking down barriers that stand in the way of creating equal opportunities for all.

Susan Szpakowski