#10, December 2021

What can a systems approach teach us about making meaningful change in the world?

Given the urgency of taking action for the socio-ecological transition, a systems approach can provide us with a crucial lens on the world and its dynamics, both small–and large–scale. But in order to apply it constructively, we need to understand this approach. What is a system, anyway? And how do we generate systemic impact?

For this edition, Raccords is dedicating a space for reflection and conversation on a concept which is central to social innovation: systemic impact. Fundamental though it may be to this field, the notion of systemic impact can sometimes seem enigmatic, both in theory and in practice.

Because we view the systems shaping the world as complex and limitless entities, with innumerable stakeholders and interrelationships, we don’t always know how to take action that generates impact. How can a project create change amid such complexity? If the complexity of the system and the simplicity of the action are not opposed, then what is their relationship?


How can we equip ourselves to make use of the systems approach?

Darcy Riddell, Raccords #10, Systems approach, Systems change

There’s nothing new about systems. We have always existed through and within them. Adopting a systemic mindset however is much less common. For Darcy Riddell, Consultant in Strategy and Systems Change, the merits of a systems approach isn’t relative: It’s the only way to observe and take action in the world so that we can achieve positive change.


Forget about one-size-fits-all solutions to complex problems

When you subscribe to the systems approach, you must accept that the only constant is change. That’s one reason why Annika Voltan believes that one doesn’t become a “specialist” in systems change per se. As Executive Director of the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia and holder of a doctorate in social entrepreneurship, Annika has worked for many years on collective solutions to social challenges, engaging a wide range of stakeholders in collaborative actions for change.


Discovering transitional-space projects in Montreal to illustrate the systems approach

Transitional space is a good example of a systems approach. It’s a practice that requires the cooperation of multiple stakeholders with sometimes divergent interests. Rather than a quick fix to a symptom, it aims for sustainable change in systems by working with the network of which it’s a part.


Top picks from Raccords and our guests, Annika and Darcy

Our contributors, Annika Voltan and Darcy Riddell, share their favourite resources for further exploration of the systems change approach.

Other Raccords