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The Education Changemaker’s Guidebook to Systems Thinking

June 30, 2020
By: Katie King, Katherine Prince, Jason Swanson, Maria Crabtree

Systems thinking can be a powerful element of systems change, no matter whether we decided to pursue transition or it was thrust upon us.

Systems thinking can help us grapple with the complex and interconnected world around us and make visible our own perceptions of how it works. Ultimately, it can help us deepen our understanding of what stands between us and our aspirational visions and articulate what it might take to bring those visions to reality.

This guidebook introduces education stakeholders and changemakers to the theories, language, mindsets and tools of systems thinking for the purpose of informing approaches to systems change. The content is organized into four lessons that introduce core concepts of systems thinking and include practice questions and exercises.

  • Lesson 1: Framing the Focus of a Systems Problem
    Setting the scope of a systems exploration and identifying systems behavior that stakeholders wish to change
  • Lesson 2: Visualizing the Structure of a Systems Problem
    Drawing the components and interactions related to a problem that stakeholders agree is important
  • Lesson 3: Looking for Leverage to Create Change
    Identifying possible actions and their potential depth of impact on the systems problem being explored
  • Lesson 4: Anticipating Futures of a Systems Problem
    Evaluating the effects of various interventions or events on a systems problem and the larger system in which it sits

Systems thinking tools and processes help groups identify novel, non-obvious solutions and reframe problems. They serve as gateways to new ways of thinking and collaborating and can help groups begin the journey toward transformation. Begin your transformation with our guidebook.


Katie King
Senior Director of Strategic Engagement
Katherine Prince
Vice President of Foresight and Strategy
Jason Swanson
Senior Director of Strategic Foresight
Maria Crabtree
Director of Strategic Foresight Projects

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