The Six Conditions of Systems Change

What is systems change and how do we make it?

Systems change is about advancing equity by shifting the conditions that hold a problem in place.
The Water of Systems Change by John Kania, Mark Kramer, and Peter Senge

There are six conditions that need to be addressed TOGETHER in order to effectively make systems change.

  1. Policies
  2. Practices
  3. Resource Flows
  4. Relationships and Connections
  5. Power Dynamics
  6. Mental Models (which we also call Beliefs or Ideology)

Policies, practices, and resource flows are structural change; relationships and connections and power dynamics are relational change; and mental models or beliefs or ideology are transformative change.

Image Caption
This image lists out the six conditions of systems change in an upside-down triangle graphic that suggests how these conditions are like an iceberg. The three structural change components listed at the top are explicit, like the visible part of an iceberg, whereas the transformative change listed at the bottom is implicit, like the iceberg below the water line. It’s a beautiful way to share this framework.

For more information, check out The Water of Systems Change by John Kania, Mark Kramer, and Peter Senge


@zaps Take a look at this framework for systems change! “What’s the real problem? Is it that young people can’t vote? Positions of leadership? Pervasive adultism mindset?” It’s all of the above! I use this framework to analyze problems at all three levels of structural to relational to transformative, which gives us the ability to create solutions at each of those levels. I also think this framework perfectly captures why collective impact is so important. Alone, we can’t possibly tackle all conditions at the same time, but together we can.