Place-based change is a long-term approach to identifying, understanding, and addressing social issues. It uses a recognised area to draw and lock in resource, expertise, and experience.

Place-based working is an increasingly popular approach to social change but it has characterised most of Renaisi’s 20+ years. In that time, it has been used to describe a range of approaches from government-led regeneration in a specific geographic area to local partnerships aimed at achieving issue-based change. In most cases, it is more than just a term to describe the target location of funding or action.

We believe in the power of place-based change because it is inclusive. Done well it values everyone’s contribution and perspective, not just the traditional wielders of power in civil society. These factors give place-based work the potential to have an impact across different parts of a local system and create more sustainable change than other interventions might.

Read Renaisi’s definition and categories of place-based work.

Keep reading for:

  • A definition of place-based systemic change
  • A framework and examples of place-based change
  • Tools for funding place-based change
  • Further reading
  • A community of practice

A definition of place-based systemic change

Renaisi’s history of place-based work has taught us that using place creates the right environment, relationships and mindset for long-term, systemic change.

More than other types of social change, place-based work is well-suited to enabling systemic change because it cannot happen in a silo. It is influenced by many factors, such as the local economy and social infrastructure, and it encourages consideration of everyone involved or affected by the change.

We define place-based systemic change as an approach to social change, rather than an outcome of it, that is defined by:

5 principles of place-based systemic change

Examples of place-based systemic change

While there is no single, simple solution to improving things for everyone, we believe that with a place as a unifier it is possible to build a clear vision and relationships that enable systemic change.

Within the UK place-based systemic change is a relatively new concept. Most funders and practitioners of this work see themselves as at the very beginning of the process but there is some emerging practice to refer to in this collection of case studies of places in the UK learning to change systems.

Our framework is designed to help individuals and organisations understand where they are on their journey towards systemic change, and what step changes are needed to get there.


Learn more about the framework for place-based systemic change in this research paper or contact John Hitchin to discuss your place-based systemic change journey and ambitions.

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO

Funding place-based systemic change

Lots of funding, policy, research, and current practice is still designed and structured to focus on issues (homelessness, offending, public health) or cohorts (unemployed people, refugees, young people). That creates a challenge if you want to use place to understand and solve problems through your funding approach.

Funding place-based systemic change is difficult because it requires all funders, commissioners and stakeholders in the place and the system to work together. Through its research and learning consultancy, Renaisi works with UK funders that are interested in funding systemic work and has designed a series of questions to think about:

  • Strategy – how does place fit with your ambitions and strategy?
  • Place – which places are you thinking about and why?
  • Role – what role do you want to take on?
  • Partnership – who are you going to work with and how? (there should be no heroes here)

If you are a funder interested in working systemically, get in touch about accessing practical tools to help make you make progress in a place.

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO

Further reading on place-based systemic change

In 2020 Renaisi facilitated a project group, chaired by Save the Children UK and including charities, agencies, and funders, to think about how funding could help a movement towards place-based change. Download the learning papers:

Community of practice

The place-based change community of practice is open to anyone working in a place or places that identifies with the principles of place-based systemic change. It is predominately for organisations delivering work, some engaged funders also attend.

If you are a practitioner or team leader grappling with these ideas and you’d like to join us, contact Louise Kavanagh.

Louise Kavanagh, Communications Consultant