Artwork by young people who are refugees and migrants, in The Children’s Society’s Birmingham office. Sketched hearts with “love” written in them.
Four Stories of Systems Change
Jan 24 · 6 min read
I spent August — December 2019 working with The Children’s Society to prototype how they might operate differently to better achieve their strategy, which includes being systems-led. I have struggled with the academic nature of a lot of systems change writing. Like everyone, I’ve personally experienced broken systems, but I haven’t seen (or perhaps haven’t noticed) many examples of tangible systems change and how it was implemented. Until I worked with The Children’s Society.
Systems change is a small, experimental (but growing) part of The Children’s Society’s work, led by practitioners. What I heard during my user research with practitioners and policy teams: systems change is 5% post-its and 95% unglamorous hard graft. Systems change is sending 10 emails to the local authority until you find the person with the ability to make a policy change. It is justifying to your manager the time that you’re spending building relationships with organisations and groups (instead of with young people directly). It is managing yourself so you have the confidence to turn up to a meeting you’re not invited to and the resilience to keep going when you’re turned away. It is keeping a campaign alive for five years to change our national laws.