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Systems change is all around us

By Ellen Harries 21 November 2014

Ideas about how to change “the system” have been thrown around a great deal over the past few years—no doubt egged on by the calamitous failure of the world’s financial systems in 2008 and an acknowledgement that surely we can organise ourselves better as a society.

From Michael Gove making moves ‘to reform our examination system‘ to Ed Milliband promising to ‘reshape our social security system‘, it feels like systems change is all around us. But what is it? And how can people in the social sector get involved, intervene and contribute to radical and long-lasting change?

Surprisingly, there is very little information available to us from trusted sources, that is also easy to access, understand and use.

And that’s why we’re thrilled to be working with the LankellyChase Foundation to fill this gap. At NPC we’ve been thinking about systems change for a while; but approaches are still relatively young, and while the methods are exciting, we recognise that there is more to be done to make them accessible for a wider audience.

How are we filling the gap?

We’ll be immersing ourselves in the literature on systems thinking, and reading what policy wonks, academics, social theorists, and charities have to say on the topic. We’ll also interview some of the key movers and shakers in the field to delve deeper, test our emerging findings and identify new sources of information and inspiration.

Alongside our research we have set up a steering group, comprised of leading thinkers and practitioners who will meet regularly to steer our work. This iterative process will not only strengthen our research, it will also allow the group to learn and develop their own thinking.

What will the output be?

We will combine our findings from the evidence and research, alongside the opinions of  experts in the field to present a practical and accessible introduction to system change approaches for the social sector. The aim is to produce a guide that will excite people about changing the system/changing the world, and give them the tools to think about how they can make the change they want to see.

How can you help?

Our team is already in place to tackle the challenge, but in the spirit of working together (and systemically!) we’d like others to get involved too. This is an open invitation to those of you out there we may not already know, who have something to offer the project. We’d love to hear about:

  • articles, journals or books that tackle the subject of systemic societal change; and
  • examples of organisations or sectors that have produced or are working towards systemic change.

If you’ve got something to send in, please email and explain why you think it is relevant to this research. Our findings will be published early next year, so watch this space!