Systems Change

Evidence-based programs alone will not allow us to reach our goal of 80% third grade reading proficiency by 2025. We also must pay attention to the systems conditions in which these programs operate. According to the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a focus on program adoption without addressing the system will limit the impact of programs to about 5%-15% of the population we seek to serve.

Our working definition of a “system” is an interdependent set of interactions among people and organizations, the tools and materials at their disposal, and the processes through which they join together to accomplish work.

People sometimes say systems are not broken, but rather are perfectly aligned to get the results we achieve. We believe that while this may be true in some cases, in other cases it is possible to arrive at a destination as a group that no individual person wanted to go to.

Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Chessboard and the Web calls social problems like early literacy “problems of connection.” People and organizations are either too connected, not connected enough or connected in the wrong ways. If connection is the problem, this means that connection is also the solution.

  1. Changing how we interact with each other; and/or
  2. Changing the tools and resources we are using; and/or,
  3. Changing the processes that we use to accomplish work.
  1. New or modified programs
  2. New or modified policies
  3. New or modified practices