About Systems Change

From the start, Catalyst 2030 members have explored systems change approaches as a means to accelerate our collective efforts to achieve the SDGs.

What is systems change? Recognising that there is no one definition, see how systems change was explained in the New Allies report:

Systems change captures the idea of addressing the causes, rather that the symptoms, of a societal issue by taking a holistic (or ‘systemic’) view. Systemic change is generally understood to require adjustments or transformations in the policies, practices, power dynamics, social norms or mindsets that underlie the societal issue at stake. It often involves the collaboration of a diverse set of players and can take place on a local, national or global level. The iceberg illustration below shows different levels at which systemic change can take place: ‘deeper’ changes tend to result in greater impact, but less-dramatic shifts can pave the way towards these deeper changes.

New Allies definition of systems change

Scaling Solutions Toward Shifting Systems Initiative (led by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors) organised common systems change characteristics into a framework:

Shifting, reconfiguring, and transforming

  • Mind-sets, mental models, and paradigms
  • Patterns, underlying structures, and ways of operating
  • Dynamics and relationships

In order to

  • Address underlying root causes
  • Deal with complex, uncertain, and interconnected systems that are ever-changing
  • Engage in the potential of living systems
  • Solve big social issues

Through intentional process and design, purposeful interventions, and conscious,  deliberate approaches such as

  • Taking living systems and complexity approaches
  • Growing the number of people who think and act systemically
  • Enabling and supporting leaders with the power to convene systems
  • Strengthening capacity and processes to engage
  • Strategic, multi-stakeholder approaches, coming together across systems
  • Having an inner awareness of the whole

With the outcome of creating, enduring and positively affecting

  • Different behaviours and outcomes
  • Resilient, lasting, and better results
  • Building a bridge to a better tomorrow
  • Increased systems health
  • Positive social change
  • Just, sustainable, and compassionate societies
  • A new normal, the emergence of a new system and a new reality

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