Analyzing Systems Change
Dr. Kim Isett, Ph.D.
Department of Health Policy and Management
Systems change is a phenomenon where individuals, organizations, policies, and regulations come together to create a new way of ding things that is both feasible and sustainable. It involves getting individual people and individual organizations to change in a coordinated way that involves policies, financing, and services motivated toward a specific change or specific sets of changes. Although there is great interest in systems change at the moment from Foundations and the Federal government, alike, currently there is a lack of understanding of what factors create and sustain systems change.
The Models for Change initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation works to systematically change the shape of the juvenile justice system. For the Models for Change project, systems change efforts could be manifested in two basic ways:
- whether intended policy or regulatory changes were indeed implemented and had a discernible impact on the daily operations of frontline workers.
- whether operational innovations from the frontlines were widely adopted and policy and regulatory change followed to support these operational changes.
Through an analysis of the work of the Models for Change Lead Entities, it will be possible to identify patterns that facilitate or inhibit systems change in juvenile justice systems. This information could provide guidance to other States on what to avoid or what opportunities to harness when thinking about initiating systems change efforts in juvenile justice.
Purpose for the Research
The purpose of this research is to identify and document the systems change strategies that were implemented with the Models for Change project in four States and to evaluate what worked, what did not work, and what worked in unexpected ways. The two key research questions to be addressed in this study are:
- What systems change strategies were implemented in the Models for Change project and what were the outcomes and consequences of these strategies?
- What are the identifiable facilitators and barriers for each of the studied reform initiatives in the four sites? To what extent did the barriers prohibit systems change?
We will us a combination of techniques to understand how change did and is happening in each of the four States. Data will be collected in three distinct, related, and synergistic ways. Data will be collected through an analysis of key documents, stakeholder interviews, and surveys.
- Documents, such as products of Models for Change project work plans, changes in regulations or statues, and meeting meetings, will be collected from Lead Entities.
- Interviews with representatives from each of the Lead Entities will occur to extrapolate information specific to each site. Then interviews will take place with representatives of the local sites involved with Models for Change. The interviews with local sites will be used to confirm and explore the impact that the Lead Entities have on the local sites.
- Surveys will be administered to all organizations that have participated in any aspect of the Models for Change project. Survey questions will be developed based on existing literature, the structure of the juvenile justice system, knowledge of the Models for Change initiative, and consultation with Lead Entities.
In addition to these data collection efforts, this project will work in conjunction with the Lead Entities and other researchers to utilize existing measures of change effectiveness to assess the "success" of the different strategies chosen in each of the four States.
What are the benefits to participating?
Models for Change State sites and their local partners will receive feedback about their efforts from the research team. This feedback can aid sites in thinking about improving or emphasizing existing strategies, or implementing new ideas based on successes or disappointments in other sites. It can also help to inform new change efforts as organizations move forward, and be a "portable" good after the Models for Change initiative has ended.