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.
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:
Design Just Strategies
Equity is when everyone has a fair and just opportunity for health and wellbeing. 

Too often change efforts actually increase local inequities instead of reducing them because their strategies fail to: 
  • reach certain populations
  • address root causes of inequities
  • prevent negative, unintended consequences
  • build conditions to promote equity
 (Phalen, 2010; Stroh, 2015) 

Consider the following ideas to design strategies with the power to promote greater equity in your community.
1.) Use Targeted Universalism 

Targeted Universalism aims to improve outcomes for all groups, but pays particular attention to the needs and circumstance of people experiencing the greatest inequities (powell et al., 2009). 

Targeted Universalism steps: 
  1. Identify which groups are experiencing the worst outcomes compared to other groups and why?
  2. Design strategies to address those groups’ specific needs, circumstances, and cultural traditions.
  3. Broaden solution to benefit as many additional people in the community as possible.
  (powell et al., 2009)
2.) Enhance Power and Capacity of Disadvantaged Groups

Powerful strategies address the root causes of inequities and create conditions that promote equity. 

This includes enhancing the social, economic, political, and learning power and capacity of groups experiencing inequities (NAACHO, 2006).

Example strategy approaches include:
  • Support community organizing
  • Support community-led efforts to promote livable wages
  • Help build resident leadership capacity
  • Build local capacity to gather and use data to advocate for more equitable conditions
3.) Anticipate and Address Unanticipated Consequences 

Strategies often have significant unintended consequences for people and communities because of the interactions or dynamics they create. These consequences can exacerbate existing inequities, making it important to anticipate and address these potential dynamics during strategy design. 

Critical questions:
  • Could your strategies create any positive or negative unintended consequences for groups experiencing inequities? 
  • If so, how can you enhance or address these consequences?
Learn more about designing equitable strategies using this ABLe Change manual supplement.

 Additional Resources
Use this checklist to design powerful strategies to address local problems and inequities.
ABLe 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.
June 2019
This ABLe exChange update is distributed to ABLe Change Training participants. It is intended to provide information to support your future efforts. Have an idea for a future update? Email us at:
  • Carey, G., & Crammond, B. (2015). Systems change for the social determinants of health. BMC public health, 15(1), 662.
  • Lounsbury, D. W., & Mitchell, S. G. (2009). Introduction to special issue on social ecological approaches to community health research and action. American Journal of Community Psychology, 44(3-4), 213-220.
  • Meadows, D. (1999). Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. Hartland, Vermont, USA: The Sustainability Institute.
  • Phelan, J. C., Link, B. G., & Tehranifar, P. (2010). Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities: Theory, evidence, and policy implications. Journal of Health and Social Behavior51(1_suppl), S28-S40.
  • Stroh, D. P. (2015). Systems thinking for social change. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing