We recently helped to facilitate the Climate Caucus Summit 2023 held in Richmond, BC. One of the presenters, Andrea Reimer, former Vancouver City Councilor and founder of Tawâw Strategies, introduced us to the ‘Two Loops’ theory of change. The model, depicted below and explained in this video, was developed by Margaret Wheatley & Deborah Frieze from The Berkana Institute.

About the Two Loops Model

The Two Loops model is a nonlinear theory of change. It provides insight into the simultaneous growth and decline processes that are underway within a system during a transition period. It offers a conceptual framework for better connecting the past to the future during change.

‘Two Loops’ Model

diagram of 2 loops model

The Moment’s interpretation of The Berkana Two-Loops Theory and Systems Change: https://www.themoment.is/how-change-happens/


Since the summit, I have found myself thinking about the applicability and scalability of the model. I’ve also been thinking about its value for the work we do striving to bring about change for a more resilient and sustainable world – whether at an organizational, community or societal level. For me, there are three key concepts from the model that really resonate. They just so happen to connect nicely with famous quotes/idioms that come to mind.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead, circa 1982).

The Two Loops model reaffirms the importance of change agents/pioneers and their ideas. It provides a pragmatic approach for supporting them, including naming, connecting, nourishing, and illuminating them.

No one left behind

Seeding opportunities for everyone to flourish in an emergent system- particularly those who have been excluded or harmed in the past – is important to its stability and long-term viability. This may require retraining workers in industries that are being phased out of the emergent system (e.g., oil and gas workers in a low carbon transition). It also demands the pursuance of justice and equity (e.g., removing barriers that prevented equity-deserving individuals from benefitting from the former system by ensuring they hold structural and positional power within the new system).

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

The model suggests a need to carry forward lessons from the incumbent/dominant system to the new/emergent model. That way, we can maintain and find comfort in the valuable connections to the past, while ushering in new practices.

Tell us what you think

We are always on the lookout for ways to innovate our planning and change management processes. This conceptual model is certainly one we will be working with as we deliver services to communities and non-profit organisations. To learn more, contact sgordon[at]whistlercentre.ca.