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 E mbedded Strategies
Powerful strategies are embedded and reinforced by individuals, settings, and processes across vertical and horizontal community layers. This helps new habits, practices, and opportunities to take hold (Lounsbury & Michell, 2009). 

Remember - the more community layers your strategy permeates, the more likely it will be sustained and/or taken to scale (King-Sears, 2001). Pay particular attention to settings that regularly touch your targeted population and end user.
Case Example of Embedded Strategies

An initiative had a goal of building the community's shared value of early reading as a way to increase 3rd grade literacy levels. The initiative engaged multiple settings and individuals to embed their strategy across the community. 

For example:
  • barber shops provided free books for young patrons and encouraged them to read while getting their hair cut 
  • laundromats hosted mini-libraries and space for children to read with their families while waiting
  • ministers talked about the importance of reading to children during baptisms
  • pediatricians "prescribed" reading and gave out free books during well-child visits

Embedding this strategy not only helped the initiative reach more families but it also reinforced the value of reading to young children with residents in multiple interactions and everyday settings.

 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.
February 2020
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 Behavior, 51(1_suppl), S28-S40.
  • Stroh, D. P. (2015). Systems thinking for social change. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing