Published by
HPC / Springfield Centre / Miehlbradt Consulting / DCED

Planning for and assessing system change is a strategic management issue. It is critical for everything from developing a strategy and designing interventions, to adapting strategy, improving implementation and reporting impact.

But many programmes get stuck when it comes to assessing system change. The private sector development field has struggled to agree on an approach that programmes can implement and stakeholders can understand.

However some mature programmes are starting to assess system change more effectively. Building on these emerging practices, this paper outlines a process that programmes can use to assess system changes regularly and practically.

Two complementary papers: Overview and How to put it into practice

The Overview summarises the approach and How to put it into practice provides more detailed implementation guidance, worked examples, and useful tips.

The Overview explores how to:

  • develop a system change strategy and intervention plans that lay the groundwork for system change assessment, including how to set system boundaries and how to identify the system changes a programme aims to catalyse
  • assess system changes using both:
      - an intervention lens focused on changes introduced by specific interventions
      - a helicopter lens that provides a whole system view

By analysing findings from both lenses, programmes can improve their strategy and report on their contribution to system change.

How to put it into practice uses two case examples for illustration throughout the paper - PRISMA’s work in the maize system in East Java and Indonesia and S4J’s work in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in Albania. It targets practitioners responsible for facilitating and/or assessing system change.

The paper explains how to:

  • articulate the system changes that a programme aims to catalyse
  • assess those changes
  • use the results to inform decision making and reporting

The approach described in the paper builds on the practices outlined in the DCED Results Measurement Standard. The guidance provided has been designed to be useful to programmes that aim to catalyse system changes whether or not they apply the DCED Standard. 

Related blogs:

The authors took part in a BEAM webinar in April 2020: