Systems Change

Any complex problem requiring attention is rooted in a system or multiple overlapping systems.

Systems are interconnected wholes, and working from this perspective emphasizes relationships between people, sectors and organizations. The behaviour of complex systems is emergent and unpredictable, entailing many little-understood relationships. Our aim is to work together to design, innovate or shift policies and institutions to better serve people and the planet, and we believe this process requires us to remain curious, humble, and ready to learn. Key to our work is an acknowledgement that no one organization or sector (private, public, or nonprofit) has all the answers to, or ownership of, systemic problems. Innovation and collaboration are essential to achieving impact at scale, be it by harnessing the potential of new technologies, joining or creating partnerships with allies with whom we share a common vision and cause, or helping to spread new ideas that start small but have the potential for making a big change.

Scaling up, out and deep

Creating lasting solutions to systemic problems is an inherently messy process that requires both empathy and imagination. It also takes a commitment of time and patience to test new approaches and learn from them.

We have a commitment to learning—asking questions, sharing ideas, and engaging in focused experimentation—to help create the conditions necessary for systems change. In the search for effective solutions to society’s challenges, we take proactive risks and try new approaches that allow innovative ideas to flourish, while doing our best to learn from both the process and its outcomes.

We also seek ways to help positive changes on the margins of systems to scale up, out and deep:

  • Scaling up effects change at an institutional, legislative or regulatory level.
  • Scaling out replicates or spreads initiatives so that a greater number of individuals, groups or locations benefit.
  • Scaling deep transforms relationships and culture, so that people see themselves reflected in the change and make it part of their day-to-day lives.

Impacts and lessons