Something new has been named: #systemsconvening

Benjamin P. Taylor
3 min readAug 5, 2021

Do you know systems conveners? Are you one?

The new book from Bev and Etienne Wenger-Trayner starts:

“You may not have heard about them; what they do is rarely in their job description. You may not even be aware of what they do; they tend to act as enablers rather than taking credit or seeking the spotlight. But they are here — working on sustainable change, across challenging silos, in complex social landscapes, amid changing circumstances. We call them systems conveners.”

Let me be clear: such people have been around forever. But it takes a special kind of expertise to identify the thing and, as they say, shine a light on it.

As the person who named communities of practice, and associated concepts like legitimate peripheral participant, Etienne Wenger-Trayner is uniquely good at this; many of the interviewees have been in tears of gratitude at being recognised.

Systems conveners are deeply embedded and yet can see new possibilities.

  • They are passionate about change yet enabling and facilitative and creative. They challenge the current reality, yet use all tools including existing boundaries and power to achieve their goals.
  • They’re impatient to make a difference yet patient in their actions, knowing that real embedded change takes time. They have clarity of vision but embrace the creativity of the process.

At heart, they know their work — and they get on with it.


And yes, we’re aware of the likely problem now this thing has been named. There will, inevitably, be some or all of: funding streams; short courses; accreditation; conferences; self-appointed LinkedIn titles; and critiques and over-simplifications. Enthusiasts gonna enthuse, popularisers gonna oversimplify, gooroos gonna gooroo, and curmudgeons gonna grump.

There’s a bit on this in the book. Every step toward legibility risks draining the essence, every codification risks destroying knowledge, every extension is also an amputation.

But this greebling — this new possibility we can now be aware of — is valuable in itself.

And the true systems conveners will carry on, making the difference — a little bit buoyed up, a little bit stronger, and with this book as a handbook for them to continue to engage in their context, to their purpose.


These are real stories about people and their work — a landscape view of work at diverse scales, scopes, and missions which builds a theory of practice from practice.

Thanks to the generosity of the sponsoring organisations — the Centre for Public Impact, The Lankellychase Foundation, The RSA and Beverly Wenger-Trayner and Etienne Wenger-Trayner themselves — the book is FREE for download now, and there is a launch webinar on September 2.

Register for the launch webinar on 2 September:

Download the book and join the community:


In a world of flaneurs, fakes, floaters and frauds (present company broadly included 😉) — these people are doing the work, and this book lets us learn from them.

pdf of excerpts and links: excerpts-and-links- Systems Convening — Wenger-TraynerDownload

#leadership #change #innovation #systemsconvening #socialjustice