Systems change: A guide to what it is and how to do it
Systems change has been attracting the attention of a range of progressive charities, funders and practitioners who are interested in dealing with the root causes of social problems. But while there is a buzz about a subject relatively new to the social sector, it is easy to feel frustrated by the literature—much of what is written is abstract in tone and there are few examples of success.
We have produced this paper to address this problem and offer accessible material and recommendations for action. This systems change guide:
- Clarifies what is meant by systems and systems change
- Describes the main perspectives on systems change
- Outlines good practice for systems change
- Identifies what is and is not agreed upon by experts in the field
- Provides recommendations for charities, funders and the public sector on how to act systemically.
We hope this presents a manageable introduction to the systems change field, especially for those new to it, and also guides those interested in acting systemically to improve the lives of people in need. Our conclusion is that although it may not be as novel as some claim, there is a good deal of value in a systems change approach and it offers a welcome reminder of what effective action looks like when it comes to the pursuit of social change.
We welcome your feedback and are interested to hear how you are working towards systemic change
in your organisation or sector. Get in touch via info@thinkNPC.org or tweet us @NPCthinks using #SystemsChange.
With thanks to LankellyChase Foundation for supporting this work and all those who contributed their time to the research.
New seminar series
In a new series of seminars, Seth Reynolds, NPC’s Systems Change Principal, will be profiling some practical tools and frameworks from NPC’s upcoming field guide on how systems practice can help create social change. The next seminar is on 24 January 2023.
Systems Change: Systems practice for social change
More from us on systems change
Thinking big: How to use theory of change for systems change
On 7 March 2018.
Applied well, theory of change can support charities and funders to take a systemic approach to their work. This report identifies five common pitfalls when using theory of change, and walks through five rules that will help organisations to use the approach to tackle complex problems.
Preventing the ping-back: Turning system shifts into systems change
By Seth Reynolds .
On 14 December 2020.
Covid-19 stopped the machine and catapulted us into an era of widespread system change. Or maybe not. Systems are stubborn and the changes we have seen were in fact temporary. How do we prevent the ping back?
Covid-19 means systems thinking is no longer optional
By Seth Reynolds .
On 9 April 2020.
Now is the time to bring systems change out of the clouds and into the mainstream.