Transforming Strategic Management Practices in the Municipal Sector

Knowledge Hub

David Corbet, Manuel Riemer, and Randy Sa’d

January 9, 2024

Municipalities Adapting in Response to Complexity (MARC) is an international partnership founded in 2020 to address ways to address complex, interconnected issues through a fundamental change to strategic management practices and to support testing, enhancing, and internationally scaling the Enterprise Evolution program. MARC partners are the ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability World Secretariat, VERiS, and REFOCUS.

MARC has brought together dozens of municipalities, NGOs, academics, and innovators motivated to accelerate the development and mobilization of transformative solutions through transdisciplinary collaboration. FEI focuses on adopting systemic management innovation (SMI) and enabling leaders to continue applying SMI on their own. To date, dozens of municipalities and sector-based NGOs, innovators, academics, and funders have joined MARC.


  • David Corbet of ICLEI speaks to the lack of progress in the municipal sector, the need for disruptive innovation, and how this growing realization is starting to make waves. About ICLEI
  • Manuel Riemer of VERiS (an organizational member of Wilfrid Laurier University) shares an update on an academic paper MARC’s core partners are working on and previews early results from applied research on programs with two leading Canadian municipalities. About VERiS
  • Randy Sa’d of REFOCUS introduces Enterprise Evolution, the program at the center of the MARC partnership and collaborative opportunities to develop its future. About Enterprise Evolution


MARC Partnership & Overview

City of Kitchener Enterprise Evolution Phase 1 Report

Session notes

Presentation Summaries

David Corbett, ICLEI World Secretariat, and Manuel Riemer, VERiS@WLU, discussed the paper several MARC and FEI members have been working on. The Need for Local Governments to Adapt Strategic Management Practices in Response to Increasing Complexity: The Case for Systemic Management Innovations (pre-release) focuses on applying the lens of systems theory to appreciate why the current paradigm of management practice within the municipal sector is not fit for purpose and the importance of systemic management innovations in enabling the necessary transformation. Breaking the Walls of Complex Systems Change in Cities: A Service Ecosystems and Psychological Perspective sets the foundation for the upcoming paper.

For context, David Corbett discussed ICLEI’s World Secretariat’s experience developing the MARC partnership within their international networks, the importance of navigating the interface between policy and practice, and the impact of having presented on Enterprise Evolution and systemic management innovation with Randy Sa’d at the Innovate 4 Cities at COP 28 conferences. David also referenced the upcoming ICLEI Policy Brief, designed for municipal leaders and slated for presentation at the ICLEI World Congress in Brazil (June 2024) and the Innovate 4 Cities conference (September 2024).

Randy Sa’d discussed Innovating Local Governance: Low Carbon Resilience Practices for Sustainable Communities, a collaborative MARC project developed with ACT. As a systemic approach to climate action, the program represents an ideal starting point or gateway to the kind of cross-organization transformation of management practices Enterprise Evolution is designed to enable. A collective of partners is being assembled to co-design this pilot program in anticipation of the forthcoming climate adaptation-focused funding the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is poised to launch in April 2024. About SFU ACT Action on Climate Team

Tim Posselt and Randy Sa’d introduced Enterprise Evolution—a capability development program designed to appeal to senior leaders that has been designed to enable organizations to transition from conventional toward systemic management practices by adopting systemic management innovation. The program is incubated within the FEI through its next development phase and informed by an expanded group of experts from across our community of practice. Enterprise Evolution—program brief

Ad hoc

Alison Shaw of ACT@SFU introduced the Low Carbon Resilience Pilot Project, an approach developed and led by ACT–Action on Climate Team, stating that it is a step change in climate action that coordinates and mainstreams adaptation, mitigation, and co-benefits in municipal planning and decision-making processes. This approach focuses on the multiple considerations and trade-offs of today’s policies, investments, projects, and decisions while acknowledging their legacies for tomorrow. The LCR Planning Handbook supports the efforts of governments to accelerate to fully integrate climate action into planning and decision processes

Bill Baue of r3.0 discussed the Global Threshold and Allocations Network, which involves several UN agencies and diverse international organizations. The network has leveraged its collective expertise within three working groups to advance knowledge and insights on holistic unlearning, systemic transformation, and social thresholds and allocations.

Session Recording

1-hour session video


January 9, 2024—FEI meeting


Session summary

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