What Drives Systems Change?

What Drives Systems Change?

Key Findings and Implications from a Literature Review on Systems Change in Education
Published: May 18, 2021
Associated Project

Tools and Resources for Advancing Community-Based Systems Change

Time frame: 2018-2021

Prepared for:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

A collage of students and teachers

Building on decades-long efforts, various place-based partnerships have emerged seeking to improve the systems that impact individuals’ journeys from cradle to career and beyond. Their focus is on “systems change”— that is, shifting the conditions that produce and hold societal problems in place. As interest in investing in systems change grows among philanthropic and community development stakeholders, the field has seen a proliferation of research on systems change success. For funders and practitioners, sorting through the number of studies and determining how their findings can be applied to local contexts can be overwhelming. This brief summarizes the current research on critical components of successful place-based systems change in education, illustrating how these components play out in practice through narratives from five exemplary communities that have embarked on systems change efforts. Finally, it offers implications for funders and program implementers engaged in systems change.

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