The System exChange
The System exChange provides powerful tips and ideas for transforming your local community.
The last issue of the System exChange provided insight on how to initiate action by fostering quick wins. Click here for past issues.

This week's System exChange builds on these ideas and describes how to overcome common barriers to action.
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Overcoming barriers to action:
Move beyond data paralysis
Does your group tend to spend lots of time looking at data on community problems... without ever moving to action ?

Too often people think they need to know everything about a problem before they can move to action. As a result, very little action is taken and community problems remain unchanged.

How can you help people move beyond this data paralysis ?

Reinforce the message that it is impossible to know everything about an issue . Community problems are complex, and starting to take action (and learning as you go) can actually help increase your understanding of these types of problem.

Next, help stakeholders identify issues or root causes where they know enough to move to action without potentially creating harm to individuals or settings. Start initiating action around these issues, and use what you learn along the way to identify additional issues to tackle.  
TIP: Encourage fast failing

Establish a norm that your actions might not work the first time - this is typical! Encourage your group to initiate quick actions (accomplished within 1-3 months) and gather rapid feedback on your progress so you can quickly learn if your efforts are working or not. 

When you find actions are not working or starting to make a difference in the problem - understand why this is happening and redesign your efforts to promote continuous improvement. 

Remember! Sometimes the only way to learn about a system is through taking action to try and change it!
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.

March 2020
Have an idea for a future update? Email us at:
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  • 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.