System Changers

So often, frontline workers form the lifeblood of the systems that support people subject to extreme forms of marginalisation. They deliver the policies created

Before you can think about what change in a system would actually improve it, you need to see the system as a whole and what is really happening within it. Systems are complex and interconnected. They are made up of people, processes, rules and culture, to name just a few key elements.

One of the first parts of the Systems Changers programme is about helping people see the wider system they are operating within. We all work at particular points in the system and can often be blind to what’s outside our field of view. We stop noticing what’s around us. It’s about going beyond your own viewpoint and seeing multiple perspectives in a system.

These theoretical modules will give ideas on stepping outside your usual way of thinking and seeing things differently. In addition, a crucial part of seeing the system is taking time out to notice all of it. Don’t rush the process.

Systems Changers creates the space for people to explore, notice, observe and reflect on what is around them.

Why is this so important? Changes are often brought in that don’t think about the system as a whole, which may have unintended consequences or simply don’t work. For instance, a new referral form that captures perfect data on complex needs may take 2 hours to complete and therefore reduce the time spent helping a client. Or a slight change in eligibility to save money in one service may mean that another more expensive service is inundated.

in the corridors of power in Whitehall and the services commissioned in town halls. They are the ones who have day-to-day contact with people experiencing homelessness, abuse, mental health crisis, addiction or a combination of these. Yet, their perspectives rarely form part of developing the policies and services they deliver, and their insights are seldom included in efforts to reform the multiple systems they work in. Frontline workers rarely possess the power to make these systems work for the people they support.

These systems include public service systems, support systems and the systems in their organisation.

We saw this gap and partnered with Point People and Snook to tackle it. In 2016, we launched the first Systems Changers programme, and some five years later, nearly 100 people have gone through a version of the original programme.

The original pilot was in 2015 in the North East and North West of England. In 2016, it ran with participants from across the South East. In 2018, we partnered with The Children’s Society to deliver a variation of the programme for their own staff. Most recently, the programme has been delivered every year for the past three years in York – one of the places we work most intensely in.

As the programme has responded and adapted to the local need, it has moved away from the original focus on frontline workers. The programme is now open to all people doing their bit to contribute to systems change for people subject to marginalisation. 

One of the original Systems Changers videos can be seen here.