In the phase ‘Creating a Shared Vision for Change’ a common agenda is emerging together with a roadmap to guide the work. Purpose and roles are becoming clearer. You will be asked how government programs or services can be aligned to the agenda. The role of government in this phase includes: connector, influencer, champion, learner and funder.
To support momentum, there is an increasing need to resource the collaborative work. Partners will be mapping funding options. You could support this by working with colleagues across government to identify where and how resources and effort can be shifted to support the agenda, identifying and aligning discretionary funding. Building escalation and problem-solving forums with senior decision-makers will enable quicker solution brokering.
Building relationships and connection to the work across government will deepen the reach of the partnership, supporting effective feedback loops as evidence builds for what works and what doesn’t. During this phase a measurement framework will be developed to track progress. There may be skills within government that could be drawn on to support developing measurement and evaluation capability at the local level.
During this phase you will likely see new people coming in to support the work, as the collaboration brings in the skills and expertise needed. Careful induction to the culture and way of working is important. If you are the new person, buddy up with a partner who has been a part of the work for a while. There are some important differences in this way of working – with shared decision making, learning while doing, and aligning resources to the common agenda rather than representing organisational interests.
This phase - with a roadmap, clear purpose or vision, leadership and governance structures - will start to feel very familiar to other collaborative projects or place-based partnerships. They key difference of a systems change approach is that strategy needs to be adaptive and focussed on learning. The work is to shift the system leavers that influence the causal factors, not just additional programs that might also be required.
In this phase be mindful of:
- Strategy is adaptive: the road map that emerges will not look like a traditional work plan, and this is because you are still identifying what works, and what doesn’t. Resist the urge for a traditional workplan, adaptive project planning and 90-day cycles are more useful in this phase.
- The culture that has been built: partners will have spent considerable time working together, testing new ideas, making mistakes and having some wins. Considerable trust has often been built to get to this point. Honest conversations are being held and a culture of how they work has been established.
- The need to leverage expertise and authorisation across government: There will be a continued need for data to inform monitoring and evaluation plans, and in particular to monitor activities in real time to learn what is working and what is not. Supporting partners to identify what data will help them measure what has changed is a technical skill. The collaborative will also need support addressing system barriers at the local level that they cannot resolve on their own.
- Pushback: as partners are asked to align to the emerging common agenda, funded agencies may identify government guidelines and regulations as a barrier to achieving this. Often there is room for flexibility at the local level, but engage with your cross-departmental colleagues early to establish a process to address these concerns and provide guidance quickly.
- Importance of sharing what is learned: community-led systems change provides an incredible opportunity to inform government about lessons that may be applicable for broader impact. For example, at place level you can see the interactions between causal factors more clearly. Sharing what is learned with your government colleagues in the early phases, demonstrating how this approach is building evidence for how government can work with community to solve complex problems can help pave the way as partners become more confident in what interventions work and should be scaled.