THE NEED CHANGELABS IS ADDRESSING
The “wicked problems” facing civilization today -- social inequity, climate change, water, energy -- are marked by complexity, immense scale, extreme urgency, global pervasiveness, and resistance to change. They represent interlaced eco-systems and deep dependencies and demand highly innovative, integrative interventions to achieve systemic change. They are also marked by the need to at once, connect global phenomena with actionable interventions at the local level. While there are many sciences directed towards characterizing large-scale phenomena, relatively few focus on factors that would create large-scale transformation in our current technological, societal, and policy landscape, and diffuse it at a pace pertinent to the timeframe related to the challenges.
The scale of the challenges are immense. For instance, in the energy sector, a target such as a 30% reduction in energy intensity implies that 25 quadrillion BTU’s of renewable energy consumption will not be used, reducing GHG emissions by 25.5%. Ensuring an adequate lifestyle for the projected 41% increase in US population to 439 million by 2050, while simultaneously ensuring a significantly reduced net impact on the environment is another target which, albeit necessary, is almost impossibly aggressive. Alongside such national goals, the following chart depicts a challenge such as the increased requirement of water to meet UN Millennium Development Goals.
Such aggressive targets imply the need for rapid transformations that cut across boundaries, disciplines, and government silos as well as innovative strategies that lead to higher impact.
To more effectively approach these large-scale challenges, we propose a new field that seeks to understand and prescribe the methodology, theoretical basis, and heuristics for generating large-scale, sustainable transformations: Transformation Innovation. This field is a trans-disciplinary science that transcends the limitations of it’s strategically selected member disciplines and creates the necessary parallax between descriptive research, characterizing phenomena, and prescriptive research which proposes strategies for systemic transformations.
Considering this need, we propose Stanford ChangeLabs, a networked entity designed to generate actionable methodologies, paradigms, theories, and heuristics for large-scale, sustainable transformations operate at scale and put them into practice through real-world projects, collaborations, and initiatives.