The System exChange
The System exChange provides powerful tips and ideas for transforming your local community.
The last issue of the System exChange introduced a process for designing powerful strategies and provided a series of tools and resources to help alter the status quo. Click here for past issues.

This week's System exChange builds on these ideas and highlights additional ways to design powerful strategies.
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What is a powerful strategy?
Powerful strategies shift the status quo. They are designed to change community system conditions (versus just individual behaviors) in ways that promote local health equity and wellbeing (Carey & Crammond, 2015; Meadows, 2008). 

Powerful strategies are able to:
  • Transform the purpose and goals driving organizations, institutions, initiatives, & communities.
  • Create new narratives that shift local assumptions about how to solve community problems 
  • Expand boundaries around which settings/stakeholders have power and influence
  • Shift policies, rules, and protocols that drive local behavior and influence how work is done. 
  • Create opportunities for improved living, working, schooling, and playing conditions 
  • Promote new roles and relationships across settings, stakeholders, and residents, including who is responsible for health and who is an actor of change.
Powerful Strategy Approach:
Target System Leverage Points
Powerful strategies target what systems thinkers call "leverage points." Leverage points are places to intervene where one change can trigger additional changes throughout a community, organization, or service delivery network (Tricket and Beehler, 2017)

The following ladder shows different system “ leverage points ” you could target with your strategies – with paradigms being the most powerful and elements being the least powerful (adapted from Meadows, 2008; Johnston et al., 2014). 
Consider how you can design your strategies to address multiple leverage points at the same time , focusing on the most powerful leverage points possible.
Level 1   
(most powerful)
Mindsets: deepest held beliefs, attitudes, values

Goals: the aims and purpose of local efforts
Power: how decisions are made, and who participates

Regulations: policies, practices, procedures, incentives, and rules

Connections: relationships between people, organizations, sub-systems
Interactions: exchanges that inform action and keep actors responsible to feedback
Level 4
(less powerful)
Components: program design, quality, range, accessibility, and reach

Resources: skills and knowledge, community living conditions, financial
Example Strategies Addressing ELEMENT Leverage Point

Example Strategies Addressing STRUCTURE Leverage Point

Pre-schools provide a professional development training to current staff on new standards and best-practices.
Local community college adjusts curriculum to train current and future early childhood education students on new standards and best-practices.

Pre-schools embed new standards and best-practices into protocols and annual staff orientation process.
Initiative creates brochures and resource fairs to inform residents of local housing programs.
All organizations that touch residents/families adopt new practice for staff to share information on local housing programs with their clients and refer them with warm handoff.

211 adopts new practice to ask people about housing needs and refer to relevant programs; United Way and other local foundations require funded organizations to keep their profiles updated in 211.

Additional Resources
Use this checklist to design powerful strategies to address local problems and inequities.
A BLe Change Manual
Refer to pages 189-300 in your ABLe Manual for more on designing powerful strategies.
If you find this publication useful, forward to your colleagues and encourage them to subscribe !

Want access to more information about community transformation? Check out the Michigan CHIR Learning website !! This website includes information, tools, and resources to help support local collaborative efforts.

August 2019
Have an idea for a future update? Email us at:
  • Brown, T, & Wyatt, J. (2010). Design thinking for social innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 31-35.
  • Carey, G., & Crammond, B. (2015). Systems change for the social determinants of health. BMC public health, 15(1), 662.
  • Johnston LM, Matteson CL, & Finegood DT. (2014). Systems science and obesity policy: a novel framework for analyzing and rethinking population-level planning. American Journal of Public Health, 104(7):1270–8.
  • Meadows, D. (1999). Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. Hartland, Vermont, USA: The Sustainability Institute.