Giving Compass' Take:

• The Collective Impact Forum explores the concept of systems change, using the example of Operation Youth Success' efforts to reduce school-based arrests as a way to see how it works in practice.

• It's a misconception that you need large amounts of money to change a system — in reality, a concerted, coordinated effort grounded in outcome measurements can go a long way.

• Here's why systems change and equity go hand-in-hand.

“Systems change approaches” have become a mantra of the social sector. Communities feel the frustration with being “resource-rich and coordination-poor.” But what does taking a systems approach look like in action? How can communities move beyond programs to influence attitudes and beliefs, improve coordination, and change policy?

The work of Operation Youth Success (OYS) to reduce school-based arrests as one area of focus in a larger juvenile justice effort offers a tangible example and concrete results.  None of the activities taken on by OYS required large amounts of funding or new programs. Rather, continuous communication drove alignment, shifted mindsets, and changed policies that contributed to school-based arrests declining by 50% from 2015-2016.

Lessons from this “schools” working group helped to make systems change tangible and concrete:

  • Lesson 1: Get the entire “system” in the room to problem-solve together
  • Lesson 2: Ground conversations in data, but then add experience and perception to understand one another’s realities and build authentic relationships.
  • Lesson 3: Build on a foundation of trust and pre-determined rules of interaction to allow new systems-changing strategies to emerge that aim to change attitudes, behaviors, and norms of those that make up the system.

Read the full article about systems change by Melissa Oomer and Amber Parker from Collective Impact Forum.