Systemcraft is our approach for
driving transformational change

Systemcraft helps leaders drive transformational change. It’s been forged from our experience on the front lines of some of the world’s toughest problems, and is grounded in a robust body of research and theory. It offers a practical framework for incubating new ideas and approaches, and for generating collective action on big, messy and seemingly intractable problems.

A short introduction to Systemcraft

Want to know more about how Systemcraft works?

Dr Kate Simpson – Wasafiri’s Managing Director and Head of the Institute – dives into Systemcraft in the video below; what it is and how it can help.

Why Systemcraft?

We face complex problems every day. Whether it is the affordability of British homes, poverty for cocoa farmers, America’s diabetes epidemic, or plastic in our oceans, our lives are impacted by patterns of behaviour and interactions far beyond our control. These problems can seem impossible to address, and many create significant harm for today’s societies and future generations.

Tackling these problems is vital to creating a more just, equitable and sustainable world. At Wasafiri we are committed to this hard work, and believe that any individual or organization can help lead positive change.

Yet current efforts to tackle such problems often fail. Responses are siloed and static, and so have limited impact. We need a different way of addressing these problems, tapping into the immense capacity of ordinary leaders, the power of collaboration, and the imperative for responses that adapt alongside the challenges they seek to address.

Systemcraft is Wasafiri’s framework for tackling complex problems. It helps change leaders and their institutions to answer “What next?”. It is built from a robust body of theory and grounded in our experience as change practitioners working in diverse contexts. It offers a robust intellectual framework for analysis and prioritisation; impels a mindset shift from solution-provider to change entrepreneur; and is supported by tools and resources for everything from system-mapping to partnership development.

The Systemcraft approach

The world’s toughest problems share similarities that make them complex: These are the problems where there is no single root cause, no single actor owns it, the nature of the problem is constantly evolving, and it is perpetuated by entrenched behaviours and interests.

Complex problems require a different way of working. Where a problem fits these criteria, meaningful change cannot be achieved through traditional approaches. We created Systemcraft to address that need. Key aspects of its approach are:

Systemcraft helps answer ‘So what do we do next?’ Systemcraft starts with a person or institution and the problem they see. It is action-oriented and practical, helping change leaders to take steps forward on the journey of achieving positive change

Systemcraft enables us to work on underlying conditions – through the use of the five dimensions it enables us to find and shift the broader ‘system’

Shifting systems requires working collectively. The potential to change systems depends on our ability to work collectively. This ethos threads across the Systemcraft approach, and particularly into its action-oriented Five Dimensions, with tactics to organise for collaboration, set direction, make change matter, change incentives and harness collective intelligence.

Five dimensions for change

Systemcraft offers five dimensions for action. These are the things we can work on when we seek to create system level change; and answer the perennial question, ‘What should I do next?

Together the five dimensions determine the collective and adaptive capacity of a system. That is, the capacity for those within in the system to adapt and work through conflicting interests.

Systems resist change. That’s because they have evolved out of the rational incentives of multiple actors, which together have formed something that “works” for some people, somewhere at least some of the time — even while creating collective problems. Efforts to shift a system will need to overcome this inertia, which maintains the status quo. Hence, changing the system requires building collective awareness and agency such that a set of actors are strong, willing and coordinated enough to change things. The five dimensions help us look at the familiar in unfamiliar ways, scan for opportunities beyond the ‘quick wins’ and ‘low hanging fruit’ and find counter intuitive ways to intervene and create change.

Change the Incentives

Create mutually reinforcing interventions that change structural and informal incentives, and influence behaviours

Make It Matter

Forge an inclusive movement championing the transformation; ensure relentless storytelling that connects with people’s concerns and lived realities

Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Developing learning systems. Facilitating participatory research and design processes. Co-creating prototypes and pilots. Strengthening decision making structures.

Organise For Collaboration

Change is collective. Build coalitions and enhance the formal and informal architecture to enable different actors to coordinate efforts.

Set The Direction

Set ambitions, goals, create milestones, mobilise resources. Create enough clarity to step forward.

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“Wasafiri helped us identify new and practical ways we could make progress on some really difficult, longstanding issues. Systemcraft was key in helping us think in new ways about very familiar things.”

Stephen Clayman

Commander, Metropolitan Police Service