What is systemic change, how can we achieve it and how can it be measured? These questions are often asked by our clients, which is why we have set up a research theme on systemic change – or what is sometimes also called transformative systems change. The research is both self-funded and conducted through research assignments funded by partners and clients.

Economic development interventions often aim to achieve systemic change, which is generally associated with reaching scale and sustainability. However, the economic development community has struggled to define what constitutes systemic change, the pathways to achieving it as well as how to measure it.

Our aim is to broaden the definition of systemic change. Solely defined through a quantitative assessment of scale is not sufficient, e.g. the number of times a successful innovation has been replicated and used by other actors. In order to call it systemic and transformative, we need to understand change on all levels and at all scales of the socio-economic-ecological system, including formal institutions like rules, laws and regulations; informal institutions like social norms and habits; on the level of basic beliefs and values in a society as well on the level of ecological changes that are inherently intertwined with our social-economic world – now more than ever.

The basis for our research is the aim to better understand how socio-economic systems work, change and evolve. We take into consideration insights from the fields that are often taken together under the umbrella of New Economic Thinking. Furthermore, we also include insights from the studies of socio-technical transformations, innovation and innovation systems, complex systems sciences in general, as well as the study of resilience in socio-ecological systems – in particular the aspect of transformation of these systems.

Please get in touch if you want to engage with us on this topic or sign up to our mailing list about systemic change to stay on top of our blog articles and publications on the topic.

If you would like to engage us on this research topic, email Marcus Jenal.

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Adaptive management  
Adaptive management Adaptive management has caused quite a buzz in development. At the same time, many practitioners, particularly those who have been around for a while, see it more as common sense…  
A process of search and discovery  
A process of search and discovery One output of Mesopartner’s work in bringing theory and practice around complexity and development together is the Systemic Insight process logic. It presents an…  
Managing complexity and uncertainty in social sector organisations in the UK  
Managing complexity and uncertainty in social sector organisations in the UK Marcus Jenal of Mesopartner spoke at an event at the Newcastle University Business School about how to better manage…  
Mesopartner Working Paper 16  
Mesopartner Working Paper 16 Gaining systemic insight to strengthen economic development initiatives. Drawing on systems thinking and complexity theories to improve developmental impact. This working…  
Rethinking systemic change: economic evolution and institutions technical paper  
Rethinking systemic change: economic evolution and institutions technical paper In this work, we question the utility of the concept of systemic change in market systems development as it is…  
Rethinking systemic change: economic evolution and institutions  
Rethinking systemic change: economic evolution and institutions In this work, we question the utility of the concept of systemic change in market systems development as it is currently used and…  
Explore, Scale Up, Move Out: Three Phases to Managing Change under Conditions of Uncertainty  
Explore, Scale Up, Move Out: Three Phases to Managing Change under Conditions of Uncertainty IDS Bulletin. Private sector development is dominated by the use of ‘good practice’ solutions, driven by a…  
Resilience in economies  
Resilience in economies What do we mean by resilience? Folke defines resilience as follows (Folke, 2016): Resilience is having the capacity to persist in the face of change, to continue to develop…  
Mesopartner Annual Reflection 2014  
Mesopartner Annual Reflection 2014 Mesopartner dedicates this Annual Reflection entirely to complexity thinking and its practical implication for our work on economic development. Eight articles in…