Head of Place & Economic Inclusion
What does it take to change a system?
Renaisi launches a collaborative 12-month enquiry into what it takes to change a system.
Beth Stout Associate Director of Place & Systemic Change invites you to work with us on understanding and moving towards systemic change for your issue, organisation, or partnership.
“Renaisi has been building understanding of systems change for many years. Drawing on all our current and historic learning, we’re really excited to invite you to be part of this journey with us.
Just as working as a whole system helps us create better environments for people to thrive, we know that learning together will help us develop stronger, more nuanced ideas about what it takes to change a system.”
Renaisi has always believed in the power of place to support people to thrive. Over 25 years, we learned what it takes to improve a place and from there, what it takes to change systems in a place.
With all that learning and experience, we still don’t believe there’s a magic formula for systemic change. If there was, we’d all be doing it.
The social sector has a lot of questions about systems change and we’ll only answer those questions by sharing ideas and learning together.
Introducing our tool for learning about systemic change
The key elements of systemic change
We’ve drawn on all our learning to date to develop the tool for our systems change enquiry. It includes three themes that we think are critical to systemic change:
- Learning about the system and your role in it
- Deep and active collaboration
- Changing what’s valued and accepted
Within each of these themes, there are a number of elements – or things we can do – whether they’re operational or behavioural. These range from actively interrogating your own role within a system, to changing whose voices are heard and the stories we tell.
We’ve learnt that each of these things is integral to making meaningful and lasting change, but that alone none of these are sufficient. We want to explore making change in each of these areas, and how together, they can create the conditions for systemic change.
We also believe that you don’t have to do it all at once – any of these elements could be a good starting point (or next step) for an individual, organisation, partnership or system.
We know the elements are deeply interconnected. For example, it’s hard to develop meaningful approaches to collaboration without looking at what has previously got in the way to that collaboration– whether that’s a power imbalance or a set of beliefs about who should hold power. It’s also hard to imagine a new system without ever understanding what the existing one was set up to achieve, and who it has been set up to serve. Without asking these questions, we’d risk just recreating an existing system, rather than setting up something new to intentionally meet the needs of those who use it.
Download a PDF that describes the 3 elements in more detail, what these changes really mean, and why they’re important.
This is a starting point. We think these changes are the key ingredients for systemic change, but we don’t believe there’s a recipe that can be followed strictly or that any one element alone is enough. The recipe for systems change is a flexible combination of many ingredients.
What we can do is explore each of these elements for our own work, and how they might help us to change the systems we’re working within.
Our learning questions
- How do the elements of our tool contribute to a changing system? How do we know the if the system is changing?
- What’s missing?
- What are the key connections between different elements of systemic change?
- What can we learn from examples of meaningful and impactful practice?
- What are we learning about ensuring systems change feels accessible?
- What are we learning about how people feel working through each element?
Just as working as a whole system helps us create better outcomes, we know that learning together will help us develop stronger, more nuanced ideas about what it takes to change a system.
We’d like to hear from you if you are interested in changing your system.
We’ll be holding regular learning sessions to reflect on our learning against each element of systemic change. We’ll be sharing regular reflections, and we’ll be continuing our regular community of practice for place-based systemic change.
We’ll also be blending this enquiry into our learning and evaluation partnerships, where we’ll be testing our approaches around what it takes to change a system, as well as what the impact of systems change really is, and how we can capture and codify useful learning for others.
Let us know if you’d like to work with us on understanding and moving towards systemic change for an issue, your organisation, a partnership, or a wider system.
Meet our systemic change team
Associate Director of Place & Systemic Change (on maternity leave from 9 May 2023)
Senior Specialist – Systemic Change
Senior Project Manager
Principal Consultant for Place-based Evaluation & Learning
- Get in touch
- Contact Julia Oertli on: