Systems for Change: where to start

It's important to get started, even if you start small.

13 September 2023

This article forms part of the Systems for Change project, which provides practical learning and tools to support integrated care systems to drive social and economic development.

If you work in an integrated care system, VCSE organisation, local government, business or academia and are looking to bring people together to improve people’s lives, the Systems for Change learning platform has been developed for you.

Throughout the course of the System for Change project, we have seen how important leadership is to making progress on the social and economic development purpose of ICSs. Effective systems need distributed leadership. This includes all the people in roles as:

  • ICB and ICP Chairs
  • ICB CEOs and non-executive directors
  • mayors, local councillors and senior council officers
  • leaders of VCSE sector organisations
  • community leaders
  • and the many others with responsibility for strategy, partnership, governance, finance and delivery, in the system and its place-based architecture, in neighbourhoods and communities and on the frontline.

We have seen how progress requires these leaders to take action on multiple strategic, structural and practical fronts, in the space where policy meets practice.

In systems where system leadership is developing, where a strong and effective leadership team is still emerging, or where there is no mayor or devolution deal, we have heard that the purpose of ICSs around social and economic development can seem an overwhelming task, leaving systems struggling to know where to start. 

What we have seen from the systems involved in the learning capture project, is that there is not necessarily a right place to start. The systems we worked with came at this from different angles and starting points. Some started by making strategic commitments first, some focused on their relationships and structures for partnership, some on enabling grassroots activity to flourish, others on creating the tools, resources and systems for action.

What is important is to get started, even if you start small. And you may have already started but just not fully realised it yet. As our test bed in Lancashire & South Cumbria found, they did not think they had made a start on this purpose but after hearing about the work from other systems and the importance of relationships and partnership they realised they have already started putting the building blocks in place.

We hope that the practical resources, case studies and learning about common approaches for leaders to take will help. But we don’t want to stop there. We have established this platform as a live learning resource and welcome feedback, as well as more examples of what you are doing on social and economic development and what is helping you to make progress. We are also keen to continue to make connections and share learning more widely. Contact details for the systems involved are available in the case studies. To find out about more opportunities to connect and learn from others about this important aspect of what integrated care systems were set up to do then please do be in touch.

Links for further information and resources:

Find out more about the Systems for Change project and access a range of resources.