Lankelly Chase and Newcastle University

Lankelly Chase aims to bring about lasting change in the lives of people currently most disadvantaged in our society.  Lankelly Chase is interested in systems change and understanding its role in promoting and supporting those seeking to change the system.

A key learning from our place based work over the last few years is that currently, the best role we can play as a foundation is to support a range of partners, and a small number of places to focus on how they can enable the conditions for change to flourish – all the time taking a focus on severe and multiple disadvantage.

As we’re not sure if this is the best approach, or where it will lead us we’ve framed it as an action inquiry. We are working with Newcastle University to explore/inquire how do we support places to build the system behaviours?

To help answer this question, we need to find out:

  • Is our approach helpful and useful?
  • What are the skills/methodologies/processes required to support areas to develop the right systems behaviours?
  • Are the system behaviours the right ones and what would it take for them to flourish at the systems level?
  • How is the narrative of the place changing?

This action inquiry is our starting point to embed and develop an approach to systems change practice grounded in the work of local change agents. The Inquiry works with a number of associates, operating in highly diverse contexts to support local actors to build the system behaviours, while also providing an infrastructure for change agents to connect and share practice.

Currently some of this work includes: transferring power to those with lived experience through the Elephants project in Manchester, supporting participative civic culture in Barking and Dagenham and reconfiguring how services can work for people with multiple needs in York.

The associates are connected, not by their context or their specific ambitions, but by their emerging practice as systems change agents. They use their position as independent actors, not to implement pre-designed solutions, but to reveal and support the connections and dynamics of systems.

Lankelly Chase’s role is to support a range of partners, and a small number of places to focus on how they can enable the system behaviours to flourish. Newcastle University’s role is to help systems change associates, people in local places and Lankelly Chase itself, reflect on, learn from, and share with one another their emerging practice.

This leverages the experience of recent work at Newcastle University in exploring how learning can help cope with complexity in professional environments, and the role of communities of learning in supporting improvement in complex contexts.

Newcastle University’s approach to learning has been informed by the ranging academic literature on systems and complexity theory, and approaches like social learning systems and communities of practice, which encourage reflection and learning among mutually accountable peers.

Within all of this, the learning process is central to improvement by encouraging experimentation and adaptation based both on successes and failures. This is pursued through three strands of practice.

  • Adopting an action research approach to generate, share and embed learning by co-designing a research plan with individual actors, and helping them to build capacity at a local level.
  • Constructing a learning community among systems change associates which gives them an opportunity to come together and share practice in person at regular intervals.
  • Applying the Living Lab developed at Newcastle University to make sense of systems and begin to navigate the challenges to meaningful improvement within them.

Together these methods constitute a growing array of practical approaches to inform the systems change and ways of coping with complexity necessitated by resilient problems in the public sector like severe and multiple disadvantage. We are excited to be working together and will be sharing our learning as we go.