Working from the inside, working from the outside.

My whole career have I been holding alive the tension between several apparently conflicting beliefs:

- on the one hand that a system can only be changed from without, and on the other that only from within can a system be changed

- on the one hand believing that there is an outside and an inside, on the other that the differentiation between inside and outside is obsolete ...

- on the one hand that a system can be changed and on the other that change emerges ...

Some colleagues believe that these differentiations are irrelevant in practice. Others go to the barricades defending either of the positions.

After having tried during decades find an answer to these differences and tensions, I understood that they are unsolvable and that they are relevant in context:

- In some projects I have been a mercenary, in a few a missionary. What is the inside and outside of each of these extreme positions?

- I have tended to place myself outside of the client's system, although I experienced that from the moment I showed up I was part of it. And I have experienced how the value I added diminished as I became "part of the inventory".

- Of all the change processes I have worked on in client's organisations, those that have had the most deep, long-lasting and sustained effects have been those in which a plethora of Change Agents and Change Practitioners from within and without have been promoting their thing, most of the times without any formal collaboration, coordination nor alignment. Is this emergence? What happens then to my wishful thinking that my contributions would be crucial to change the system?

- I have worked in change processes in which all players acknowledged that all of them, no matter the size and real/formal power they had, were part and owners of the system they wanted to change (e.g. a geographical area). Nevertheless, some acted more as insiders and owners of the system than others, while others could never leave their self-perception as outsiders.

- When working on change processes in Fuzzy Enmeshed systems, there is no outside and all change is emergent. In Bounded Structured systems it is possible to make believe that there are agents who promote the change that will happen, that there is an instance that controls the process and its constraints, ...

In a herd: what's inside and what's outside? Photo taken in the Sanctuary.