Discussion paper

Systems change theory and practice: a brief review and practical insights

A discussion paper about finding better ways to improve child and family wellbeing
Community-based family services Systems thinking Child protection Family services Monitoring and evaluation Families Australia

Systems have always been part of the ways people live, work, play and learn. For people and organisations interested in child and family wellbeing, the study of systems is increasingly relevant. Researchers and practitioners are gaining interest in systems theory as they seek to learn more about how systems operate, interconnect and function – particularly in ways that enable children, families and communities to thrive. Where children and families are not thriving, are disadvantaged or have experienced trauma, the evidence suggests that systems thinking can develop a shared understanding of how to create a more supportive and effective system of care. Systems thinking is also helping to find solutions that address the root causes of challenging conditions that prevent life-long health and wellbeing.

This discussion paper offers a brief summary of recently published literature and key theories and is divided into three sections to answer core questions:

  1. What is systems change theory?
  2. What are systems change approaches?
  3. How are systems change approaches being evaluated?
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