Systems thinking provides campaigners and organisers with an overall approach and a set of tools to understand the entrenched problems we work on and more strategically engage with the complex systems that we operate in.
In this guide, we look at systems practice as an overarching approach that can help our campaigns and organising strategies be more effective at driving systems change. This approach is grounded in some key principles including focusing on relationships and patterns, working to unlock the forces of change, putting pressure on “leverage points”, planning to adapt and engaging multiple perspectives. We also go through a broad, flexible process that can be used to focus campaigning and organising strategies on driving systemic change. This is achieved by developing an understanding of the system you want to shift, identifying levers of change in that system and developing an adaptive strategy to put pressure on these levers to achieve your goals. We hope this guide will help you set up an approach for your campaigning and organising work that can analyze the different systems in play, not just the concrete issue your campaign or organisation seeks to address.
This guide is accompanied by a sister guide on Systems Mapping for Campaign Design which explores how to apply some specific systems thinking tools for developing campaigns.
Table of Contents
- Disclaimer / Request for your help 2
- Summary 2
- What is systems thinking? 3
- Who’s doing it? 3
- When to do this 4
- Impact / Why do this? 5
- What this requires (people, resources, etc.) 7
- Setup + stages 13
- Tricky Parts + Fixes 20
- Further resources 21
- Who can help with this? 23
- Attribution 23
Access the full document on Google Docs OR download the PDF from the box at the bottom of this page.
- For other guides from Blueprints for Change see the Blueprints for Change collection on the Commons
- Systems Mapping Tools for Campaign Design
- Systems Thinking and Campaigning: An Interview with Nicky Ison
- Open University Systems Thinking Hub
- Campaigning - Strategy
- Creative thinking
- Cynefin framework
- Problem solving
- Systems thinking_analysis