Giving Compass' Take:

• Becky Elton shares four lessons that Changing Lives learned from doing systems change work over the past several years. 

• Elton advises us to "understand the problem from the beginning." How are you implementing this strategy into your giving?

• To understand more, here are the roots of philanthropic systems change.

There is currently a lot of narrative around systems change and relational ways of working, particularly about how hard it is to work systemically. All of us are part of whatever systems we operate in. So, every time we interact with them, they change.

What we mean when we use the term systems change is ‘influencing change in a system so that it more effectively delivers the purpose of that system’. What is hard is to direct the change, so that the system improves and creates lasting impact.

The challenge we face is that we all want to jump straight into systems change, without the right skills for systemic thinking or the right tools. Then what happens is we fall back into old patterns, like creating a plan which looks good on paper, we try to implement it and it fails, and then it becomes ‘just another initiative’.

I’m not going to pretend that I, or Changing Lives, is anywhere near to perfect in ‘doing’ systems change. However, we have learnt a lot about the thinking, the tools and the conditions for change over recent years. Here are the four lessons we have learnt from ‘doing’ systems change.

  • Understand the problem from the beginning
  • Understand the purpose of the system
  • Don’t delay getting started
  • Become comfortable with messiness

Read the full article about lessons in systems change by Becky Elton at NPC.