Stories of Effective Systems Change


(Justin Wiebe) #1


On November 15th, 2018, The Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF) hosted a virtual panel on effective systems change. Systems Change, or Collective Impact, as it is often referred to, has garnered a lot of attention from funders, government, and the not-for-profit sector. We know that programs alone cannot solve systemic issues. Collaborative systems change initiatives are critical to creating more equitable, inclusive, and vibrant communities.

We brought together four leaders in systems change to discuss their experiences, share key insights, and help strengthen our collective understanding of systems change. During the webinar our four panelists, Ewa Cerda-Llanos (Centre for Connected Communities), Katie Boswell (New Philanthropy Capital), Kevin Barlow (Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council), and Nikki Browne (Nikki Knows) discussed the following questions:

  • What does it take to do systems change effectively?
  • What are the stories from the frontlines of building diverse collaboratives that can work together and make meaningful change?
  • What does equity, reconciliation, and youth-leadership have to do with systems change?
  • Are we seeing strong potential for positive impact through collective impact?

What did we learn?

  • Systems Change is both a mindset and a process. We need to think beyond ourselves and look at systems in all that we do.
  • Many systems fail and cause harm for certain communities. Furthermore, systems are interconnected, and we cannot create solutions in isolation.
  • We need to be grounded in our own communities’ knowledge and ways of being to develop solutions that address systemic failures.
  • We need to acknowledge the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization and racism.
  • We need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, things cannot be fully predicted and controlled.
  • People with lived experience must be involved at all levels of systems change work
  • It’s critical to define the change we’re trying to make. Developing and checking in regularly on a Theory of Change can be an important tool to ensure effectiveness.
  • There is a need for flexibility, adaptiveness, and responsiveness to emerging issues that may impact the work, the community(ies) and people, and the system(s).
  • Taking the time to build meaningful relationships with partners is important. Collaborators need to be on the same page in how they’ll work together.
  • Collaboratives should start with mapping the system to better understand how it works.
  • Collaboratives, organizations, individuals, etc. need be reflective and understand how they may contribute to upholding the status quo. Let your values lead you, and community change only happens at the speed of trust

Additional Resources from the Panelists