Systemic working in Place: How we got here

In our blogs and learning, you will hear a lot about the system behaviours. Our insights will reflect on whether these are the best ones for now, if some are more important than others and what they tell us about working in place using a systemic lens.

But how did we get here and how did we choose the system behaviours?
Back in 2013, we published our first theory of change setting out the problem we wanted to solve and the kind of change we wanted to promote. We asked potential grantees, to think about their work in terms of how it will change systems. We also set out our intention to proactively instigate place-based work centred on what we were learning.

We knew that we wanted an ambitious approach to place-based work, one that places the emphasis on working systemically and that seeks to apply some of the principles that are emerging from our learning.

We didn’t know where to start and how to do it. We talked to a lot of people.  To bring together all the insights from our conversations, we asked Toby Lowe from Newcastle University to help us design collaborative process for bringing people together and capture the collective intelligence and learning.

Over a period of 18 months, we undertook seven strands of work that were the building blocks of our intervention in place.

1. We worked with Toby Lowe from Newcastle University to hold a series of discussions with a range of people across England to help us develop a manifesto which sets out the values, principles and behaviours which need to shape place-based systems change (the manifesto would turn into the system behaviours)

2. We commissioned IVAR to do an historical UK and international literature review of statutory and charitable approaches to place (which you can read here.)

3. We co-funded IVAR to look at how foundations are approaching place-based work across the UK.

4. We worked with the Association of Charitable Funders to set up a time-limited interest group for funders interested in place. This included UK, England-wide and Scottish funders and those based in particular places.

5. We held a series of exploratory one-to-one meetings with other funders, statutory partners and other practitioners.

6. Funded Collaborate, New Local Government Network and CLES to test out different methodologies.

7. Continued to fund and learn from voluntary agencies taking place based approaches such as Civic Systems Lab, North Camden Zone, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and Foundation for Families.

We spoke to over 200 people, including people with lived experience, academics, theorists, practitioners, funders, consultants, think tanks, civil servants and those in the public sector.

This deliberate process of harnessing collective intelligence gave us much more understanding and knowledge than we could have found on our own sitting in our office.

And it was more than that. We were asking different kinds of questions to help us see things differently. We were creating conditions for good dialogue, bringing together different voices and triangulating insights.

We were creating a process and trusting it even though we didn’t know what would emerge. We were immersing ourselves in uncertainty. We were seeing the world through systems lens.

This approach helped us see systemic working as a process and as an outcome. It also enabled us to synthesise the learning from all these conversations into the system behaviours.

We would like to thank all the people who shared their insights and helped to shape this work. We cannot name all of them. Below are just a few of them.

David Ford, members of Revolving Doors’ National Service User Forum, Tessy Britton, Zaid Hassan, Indy Johar, Rick Muir, Malik Gul, Charlie Howard, Sophia Looney, Simon Johnson, Sophie Boobis, Nerys Parry, Sonia Khan and the participants on our Systems Changers Programme.

Young Foundation, Vanguard, Snook, Collaborate, Coventry Law Centre, Brighter Futures, Homeless Link, Early Intervention Foundation, Together for Mental Wellbeing, Barca, User Voice, Bromsgrove and Redditch Council, Monmouthshire Council, Coventry Council, Public Sector Transformation Network, NHS England, Public Health England, Health Watch, Love Barrow Families, New Philanthropy Capital, Locality, West London Zone, Newcastle City Council, Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing, NSPCC, Porticus UK, Welsh Women’s Aid, Women’s Aid, The Collective Partnership Ltd, Social Justice Solutions, The Centre for Welfare Reform, Tameside council, Foundation for Families, Women centre, Calderdale Council, Social Finance Agenda Integrate Agency CIC, Grapevine, Hackney Council, Ava Project, London Funders, Comic Relief, Big Lottery Fund, JRF, Lloyds Foundation and Save the Children.

Place Action Inquiry

Our learning so far

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