J-WEL Fellow Peter Senge named 2019 Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year | MIT J-WEL

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J-WEL Fellow Peter Senge named 2019 Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year



Peter Senge, J-WEL Fellow and senior lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management, has been recognized as a 2019 Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year. With this honor, Senge joins an esteemed group of thought leaders in a world-class three-year program, during which his work on social innovation will be showcased globally. 

Advancing diverse learning communities through compassion

An internationally recognized leader in systems thinking and organizational learning, Senge works to advance diverse learning communities, including the Sustainable Food Lab and, most recently, the Compassionate Systems Network comprised of primary and secondary educators around the world. The Network aims to incorporate the Compassionate Systems Framework into pK-12 education for 21st century educators and learners, integrating systems learning, social-emotional learning, and mindfulness into schools. Senge and J-WEL Affiliate Mette Miriam Boell developed the framework to support pK-12 students and teachers in the building of a "cognitive and affective foundation for global citizenship,” preparing them to apply these skills to solve global systemic challenges such as climate change and sociopolitical crises with compassion.  

“Peter has been at the forefront of organizational learning for nearly three decades,” says Vijay Kumar, associate dean of digital learning at MIT and executive director of J-WEL. “Today, he plays an integral role in J-WEL’s mission to advance positive, systemic changes to shape the future of learning.” 

A lifelong thought leader

Senge is the founding chair of the Society of Organizational Learning (SoL), a global network of organizations, researchers, and consultants focused on the “interdependent development of people and their institutions.” He is also a cofounder of the Academy for System Change, which works to accelerate the growth of the systemic change field worldwide. 

In 1990, Senge authored The Fifth Discipline, a bestselling classic with more than two million copies sold. The book was recognized by Harvard Business Review as “one of the seminal management books of the last 75 years,” and by Financial Times as one of five “most important” management books. Senge is also co-author of several related field books, as well as Presence and The Necessary Revolution. The Journal of Business Strategy named him one of the 24 people who had the greatest influence on business strategy in the 20th century. 

Solving problems with collective action

Senge's current work focuses on fostering a cross-sector understanding of complex issues and collective leadership for healthier human systems. His works spans government, healthcare, business, and education, and embodies the idea that common principles and practices for developing leadership at all levels can enable system change in diverse domains. Of the award, he says:

I am honored to become officially part of the Schwab Foundation global community and join in their effort to bring social entrepreneurship to a new scale of credibility and impact. We all know that entrepreneurs bring imagination and energy to create new sources of value in the business world. But [they also] do so in the social sector, and recognition of this role has increased dramatically in the last few decades. But the deep social and ecological imbalances that have built up over generations will not change in a few months or years, and problems that have their root in collective ways of living will not be solved by heroic individuals. Our hope is that deeper understanding of the fundamentals of developing as ”system leaders,” people able to foster the collaboration needed for system change, can help. Somehow we must marry the creativity of entrepreneurship with the capacity to transform relational spaces frozen by fear and separation.  

The Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year award is issued by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, is a leading global platform that accelerates models of social innovation to scale solutions and support people in need.