Systems thinking made human
The most intractable, dynamic social impact challenges can sometimes feel like the movie Groundhog Day – in spite of best efforts by many, the difficulties just don’t go away. That’s where systems thinking can be a powerful tool. It helps you see the patterns that are perpetuating the current situation, as well as the points of leverage where you may have greater potential for impact.
Unfortunately, this potent approach can be held back by its academic framing. Historically, this methodology is presented in complex, inaccessible ways. The Omidyar Group (TOG), an ambitious philanthropic organization focused on intractable issues, wanted to change that. They approached Daylight to help make systems thinking more human, both to help TOG initiative teams and to support the broader social impact community.
Mashing up TOG's deep systems expertise with Daylight’s relentless desire to make things actionable and human, we built a powerful toolkit that gives practitioners a step-by-step approach to applying systems thinking.
The peanut butter & jelly approach
"How would you turn this into a simple recipie anyone could follow?"
As we dove into the development of the systems thinking workbook, the PB&J recipe metaphor served as a constant reminder of the simplicity we wanted. Like any complicated culinary dish, we split the systems journey into sections, and then broke each step into plain, simple language. This step-by-step approach, paired with real-life examples gave TOG initiative teams the powerful but accessible tools they needed to apply systems thinking to their intractable social-impact challenges.
The "why" and mindsets of systems thinking.
Systems can be a long and intense process that requires significant team time and effort. To ensure that teams we're willing to take on that commitment, TOG wanted teams to really understood the "why" and mindsets behind systems thinking. Daylight created a collection of compelling videos to help make these abstract concepts tangible and comprehensible to both internal teams and external stakeholders.
Unifying visual language
To keep the material both inviting and consistent, it was important to have a distinct visual language that tied the larger systems experience together, from workbook to videos to facilitation to workshop materials. Daylight designed the systems practice branding to be both optimistic and mature, a natural extension of The Omidyar Group brand. The experience was enriched by bespoke iconography and a distinct systems journey visual that acted as a visual reminder for where one might be in the systems experience.
"This course has helped us look at problems in the system and understand how to address them rather that going straight for short term solutions. This will hugely impact the way we work to develop the agrivultural sector."
Agricultural Value Chains project team, USAID
This work has had significant impact both within TOG and in the greater social impact sector. Within TOG, this approach has been broadly adopted by teams across the organization. Beyond TOG, this work has become the center piece of a systems thinking course available through +Acumen - a global learning platform for social impact leaders. The toolkit has been harnessed by over 14000+ people working for foundations, non-profits, NGOs and other social impact organizations across the globe.