Last year I began a series of papers focused on exploring current methods and approaches for Community Innovation - methods that can help changemakers discover and steward opportunities for positive change in communities.
The first paper in that series, Design-Based Methods¸ explored the potential of those methods for community change. However, design-based methods aren’t the only possible pathway to Community Innovation.
In the past few months I have worked with a number of different organizations to develop their Theories of Change - a strategy framework that can help groups think through their intended impact and how they will get there. One of the central question many groups wrestle with is, “Where should we focus our work to have the greatest impact?” While design-based methods can provide some ways to approach answering that question, there are many other possible approaches.
Systems Thinking encourages us to understand the interconnections inherent in our contexts. In a living ecosystem, changes made in one area have ripple effects throughout the ecosystem (as demonstrated in the delightful video, How Wolves Change Rivers). Our social systems are no different. A Systems Thinking approach suggests that we should seek to understand our broad social systems and relationships to identify the places where our work can have the greatest impact. Systems Thinking helps us zoom out and examine our broader context to pinpoint where we might act.
Another perspective can be found in the world of Behavioural Insights. This field looks at human psychology: the ways we make decisions and how the design of our environments shape our decisions. By understanding these connections, small changes that we create to our environments can result in dramatic changes in behaviour, such as the connection between the organ donation registration process and donor registration rates, or the importance of placing store products at eye level to increase sales volume. Zooming in to understand how we make decisions might allow us to make small changes for big impacts.
Over the next few months we’ll explore both of these approaches to unpack how they might help us answer the question, “where can your work have the most impact?”