Systemic Change

As Albert Einstein famously said: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

To address the complex and interconnected SDGs we need radical, transformational change. That means change that pervades all parts of a system, taking into account the interrelationships and interdependencies among those parts. This involves basic shifts in values, beliefs, relationships, and power. Transformational change may lead to the unpredictable emergence of new systems and characteristics and therefore partners need to undertake a process of profound joint exploration. This requires a deep understanding from partners of the underlying societal patterns of the issue at hand and a high level of commitment and skill in collaboration.


  • What is the level of ambition of the partnering endeavour?
  • How are societal patterns linked to the aim of the initiative?
  • How does the project ensure it is addressing the societal patterns underlying the issues it is trying to solve, taking into account the complexity and interconnectedness of the issue?
  • Are appropriate stakeholders at the table that are able to make the envisaged systemic change?
  • How are partnering activities linked to the ‘higher purpose’ of the partnering endeavour?


  • Report: Classic insights from Building Partnerships for Development on Creating Space for Innovation
  • Report: Report from Harvard CSRI exploring ‘system leadership’ in the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture partnership platform


  • Current context analysis available and revised over time
  • The Theory of Change sketches the pathways to systemic change
  • Periodic review of implementation activities linked to the ‘higher purpose’ of the partnering activity