We run practical programmes to change systems.
ALT/Now works with people from all walks of life who want to change entire systems.
These people - philanthropic funders, investors, entrepreneurs, policy makers, industry and community leaders - recognise that the industrial systems we rely on are under growing strain. Yet to shift to a new generation of systems which are more adaptive, inclusive and sustainable requires collective innovation which brings together new products and services, new lifestyles and behaviours, new business models and infrastructures.
Systems change is the challenge of an age in which our society needs to make profound and radical transitions to cope with climate change, ageing, urbanisation and growing insecurity at work.
We deploy a robust set of methods tested through many programmes to support leaders, funders, innovators and entrepreneurs to bring about that systems level change.
Founded by Jennie Winhall and Charlie Leadbeater, ALT/Now works with partners in the UK, Europe and North America on big systems challenges from the future of work to health, ageing and climate change.
A 21st century safety net
Creating new systems for economic security - with the Royal Society of Arts, Mastercard’s Inclusive Growth Centre and twelve economic security pioneers
the future of good WORK
Building the movement for good future work with system innovation initiatives in the UK, Canada and Spain
CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR
Tackling inequality and building a fairer economy in our inaugural ALT/Now program in Banff
Reimagining property, housing and wealth systems to reclaim a sense of home - with the Young Foundation
INvesting FOR SYSTEMIC IMPACT
Creating a framework for spotting and investing in ventures with system-changing potential - with the Social Tech Trust
People make systems
Many of the systems we rely upon are under immense strain. They were designed for a different era.
That is true for health and welfare systems but also for transport and energy, housing and education. Many of those systems are ill-equipped to tackle emerging social challenges, from ageing to climate change. Yet systems are powerful because they are very hard to change: it requires a collective effort over several years to change the interlocking components of a system. No one player in a system usually has the power to change the whole.
Creating the platform for this collective creativity is what we specialise in.
We call the agents of systems change “transformational coalitions” which bring together consumers and activists, entrepreneurs and innovators, with funders and policy-makers. Our programmes create the core to these transformational coalitions.
Lots of good people feel trapped in bad systems. Lots of promising social innovations fail to scale because they find it impossible to find a foothold in the systems they challenge. A mass of effort goes into improving the systems we have without shifting those systems to a new purpose and logic.
Our programmes are aimed at this critical transition, helping people navigate their way from dysfunctional systems we have to the new, different and better systems we need.
We work with people who are in the midst of this transition: people who are improving the system as it stands while trying to create the conditions for a better alternative system to emerge.
Systems innovation is necessarily a highly collaborative and long term undertaking.
That is why our programmes typically involve several cycles over three years, with a six month set up and research phase to create a shared perspective on the challenges and to recruit potential cohort participants.
We engage in a process which involves exploration and learning, synthesis and framing, problem solving and solution prototyping, building wider coalitions and starting movements for change. Generally each programme involves several cycles through these activities to build momentum.
Transition not disruption
Our aim is to go well beyond disruptive innovation which sets out to disrupt the workings of an incumbent system. Our programmes are aimed at initiating collective transitions, to shift from an old system to a new one. We need to become skilled at making rapid, shared transitions.
Inverting the funnel
Most innovation programmes are designed as a narrowing funnel: they start with lots of potential ventures most of which fall by the wayside. The costs of failure are compensated by a few big hits. We think that model is excessively wasteful and designed ultimately with the needs of investors in mind.
We invert the funnel so it is more like a loud hailer: it amplifies outwards. We start with a small core organised around a common challenge with a shared vision of the future and then we try to widen the field of collaborators involved in developing new ideas, policies, businesses and social movements.
Innovation at all levels
Systems change is a collective undertaking, involving people from every part of a system from the micro up to the macro.
Social ventures play a critical pioneering role in identifying innovation and potential future markets. But systems change requires much more than successful products, services and businesses.
Ventures pioneering new systems need to help build a field which involves business, policy-makers, funders, activists and behaviour change. It is the field or the movement which brings about change.
Movements make markets
Movements make markets, change norms and flip systems: successful social innovation is invariably part of a larger story of social change which embraces consumers, innovators, business and policy.
Collective change is only possible if those involved have a shared account of the shortcomings of the current system and a vision of a better alternative. We call this creating a path to the preferable future. Possible futures are what might happen; probable futures are what is likely to happen. The preferable futures is what we want to happen – the world we aspire to live in. Our systems change initiatives start by mapping out the path to this preferable future.
The most influential activities are the least often funded. But they are hard to measure. We are exploring what it takes to move from venture investment to system investment.
Venture investing is all about narrowing down to a small set of high growth ventures. Systems change investing is about widening the field of collaborators from different parts of the system to amplify change.