Systems Thinking

The Centre for Social Impact takes a holistic, adaptive and systems-led approach to creating sustained and meaningful social change.

To build a stronger Australia we must first unearth the root of systemic problems instead of treating symptoms. To obtain a wider, unbiased perspective, we first have to define and align our organisations, our missions, our thinking and strategies to make the change that delivers the most positive social outcomes.

No one sector, organisation or individual holds the keys to driving positive social change in Australia. Why not? Because society is a complex system. It adapts. It changes, as do the people who are its component parts. A society relies on relationships between government, communities, business, social purpose organisations, the media, changing technology, environmental factors and cultural shifts.

Society is messy. Social challenges even more so. And that's why we need to take a systems approach to social change.

Why take a systems view?

We take a systems view because we believe it is the system that is failing our most disadvantaged and vulnerable Australians. Our systems view applies to our entire social impact framework and all of its interdependent elements – a change in the system requires outcomes and context to be defined, for the right leadership and learning and we see opportunities or tipping points.

We are a fortunate nation. We enjoy a generally high standard of living, good health, a warm climate, stable political processes and for the past two decades, uninterrupted economic growth. The story of most Australians is positive. But the system is still failing so many and that has to change.

Understandably, alarm bells of ‘reductionism’ may sound when we say we take a systems view to thinking about the Australian social economy and addressing entrenched social challenges. We look at our social system as a complex adaptive system – because we are talking about people’s lives. And people are interactive, adaptive and unpredictable. People are not necessarily motivated to change. The system is not necessarily motivated to change in line with delivering the best social outcomes.

Our systems view

Our focus is the whole social system and contributing to systems change rather than single-issue activities and programs. We are preoccupied with messy, multi-faceted issues – wicked problems – for which there is no singular sector-based or program response.

We recognise the magnitude of our vision. We know the system we are looking to change comprises hundreds of thousands of people, not to mention systems within systems across the country. The Centre for Social Impact will not tackle the whole system in the short-term – rather, we are looking for specific challenges. And we are seeking to ask the right questions, to better understand the system.

We’re not just interested in growing the amount that High Net Worth individuals donate in Australia. More importantly, we also want to know what role they play and what outcomes for social benefit that can deliver. We are looking to specific communities in Australia where there are up to 50 agencies running over 80 programs and spending upwards of $40,000 per person, per year with no measurable change. We want to know why. And what could work better.

We are here to ask the right questions in a systems context. We are looking to understand, evaluate, teach and discuss the best way to make change happen with the most effective outcomes, at the lowest cost. It has to be this way otherwise the system will not improve.

Going it alone?

Absolutely not.

We want to work in collaboration with organisations from across sectors, throughout Australia and around the world, to courageously combat social challenges where there has been too little change, no change and where change is required urgently.

That said, we have no intention of shying away from finding the most effective solutions and we will relentlessly pursue those solutions with the most effective outcomes as our goal.

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