Masterclass Series: Stories of Change – How does change happen?

This virtual 6-part workshop series focuses on four frameworks to help us understand how change happens, diagnose current complex issues and work more systemically with others.

Delivered by the NHS South West Leadership Academy and the School of System Change, via zoom.

If you require this document in an alternative format, please email the South West Leadership Academy’s Inclusion Coordinator

The series is delivered in six workshops on Thursdays from 14:00 –15:00 from 11th November to 16th December 2021.  Please note that whilst we highly recommend attending sessions live, by registering for a minimum of 1 session, you will gain access to recordings of all the 6 sessions to be watched later.

There is no individual/organisation cost to attending this programme.

  • 11 Nov, 14:00-15:00 – Introduction to Systems Change
  • 18 Nov, 14:00-15:00 – Iceberg Model: The Rise of the US Civil Rights Movement
  • 25 Nov, 14:00-15:00 – Multi-level Perspective: The Birth of Rock N Roll
  • 2 Dec, 14:00-15:00 – Levels of Paradigm: Creating Resilient Communities in Mexico City
  • 9 Dec – Three Horizons – Emergence of Humanised Healthcare
  • 16 Dec – A Practitioner’s Approach to Systems Change

Aims of the Programme

The full workshop series is intended to provide participants with:

  • the opportunity to learn and apply multiple tools and frameworks from the cutting edge of the systems change field;
  • the guidance from experienced systems coaches in using tools and frameworks in group settings;
  • a virtual learning environment to skill up on key system change capabilities such as systems diagnosis and interventions; and
  • exposure to an active community of systems leaders across the world.

Target Audience

How can systemic frameworks help us understand social change? What can our history tell us about how systems change happens?

The aim of this series is to create accessible resources to co-learn and help change agents to design more systemic strategies and interventions. This multimedia series supports system change facilitators to introduce systemic frameworks to a wider audience.

The School of System Change collaborated with foundations, academics, creatives and others to create the Stories of Change – a series of videos and tools for designing and delivering system change practices. The School engaged a community of partners to transform these stories into multimedia videos and facilitated learning experiences. Learn more about the Stories of Change series here.

Structure and Content of the Programme

This 6-part series from the School of System Change, in partnership with the South West NHS Leadership Academy, uses the STORIES OF CHANGE series to discuss how systemic frameworks can help us understand social change.

Learn different frameworks such as Multi-Level Perspectives, Iceberg Model, Levels of Paradigm and Three Horizons to diagnose complex issues, facilitate group discussions, and work more systemically with others.

Masterclass Workshops

Workshop 1: Introduction to System Change (11th November 2021, 14:00-15:00)

What is systems change, and how does it inform change?

This first session introduces what is systems change, why it is critical to understanding and solving complex challenges, and how does it inform change?

Led by Dr Anna Birney, this first session will help you and your team think through your role(s) as system changers and provide some tangible system sensing tools and examples, and help you apply them to your own work. This workshop sets up the later sessions in this series to dive in to key frameworks and specific case studies to illustrate how change happens.


Workshop 2: Iceberg Model – The Rise of the US Civil Rights Movement (18th November 2021, 14:00-15:00)

 What does the rise of the Civil Rights Movement tell us about how change happens? What assumptions and beliefs underlie the system that holds it in place?

This session discusses The Iceberg Model; typically used in systems diagnosis, can help us explore blind spots, question assumptions and challenge mental models underneath pivotal events, such as Rosa Park’s arrest in 1955 in the US Civil Rights Movement.

Only 10% of an Iceberg’s total mass can be seen above water—the remaining 90% exists below the waterline. As a society, the majority see and respond to events, happening at the tip of the iceberg.

This Stories of Change session focuses on the well-known event, Rosa Park’s arrest in 1955, from the Civil Rights Movement, and dives deeper into the structures, patterns and mental models. Our facilitators come from The School of System Change and Forum of the Future. View the Stories of Change video here.

Workshop 3: Multi-level Perspective – The Birth of Rock N Roll (25th November 2021, 14:00-15:00)

What does the breakthrough of Rock n Roll tell us about how social change happens? What kind of change is necessary to accelerate transitions?

This session discusses The Multi-Level Perspective framework; typically used in systems diagnosis, can help us understand transitions in history, such as the seemingly sudden rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 1950s.

Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) explains how transitions manifest through interactions between different levels of societal systems. We can use the MLP for systemic diagnosis–such as diagnosing complex challenges within societal systems such as mobility, housing or food.

This Stories of Change session focuses on the seemingly sudden rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 1950s. The speaker panel will discuss the MLP to understand the story behind this radical shift in the American music industry. Our facilitators come from The School of System Change and Forum of the Future. View the Stories of Change video here.

Workshop 4: Levels of Paradigm: Creating Resilient Communities in Mexico City (2nd December 2021, 14:00-15:00)

How do we understand living systems and its multiple levels? How can societies better align with the living systems it is interdependent with?

The session explains the Levels of Paradigm through the story of water management and resilience in Mexico City and shifting from away from extraction to regeneration.

The Levels of Paradigm, typically used in whole systems thinking, can help us shift from sustaining systems to restoring and regenerating. Our speaker panellists discuss the story of water management in the neighbourhood of Xochimilco in Mexico City and how preserving cultural practices restored water access in times of crisis.

Regeneration, as a mindset, is focused on building the capacity and capability in people, communities, and other natural systems to restore, renew or revitalize. How can regenerative design help us understand the whole systems to shift toward resilient and equitable systems that integrate nature?

This Stories of Change session focuses on water management in Mexico City – a city built on lakelands and how the poor neighbourhood of Xochimilco demonstrated the value of rainwater harvesting following the 2017 earthquake. What can this story teach us about shifting from extracting value to reconnecting cultural reverence for a natural resource such as water? Our facilitators come from The School of System Change and Forum of the Future. View the Stories of Change video here.

Workshop 5: Stories of Change: Three Horizons – Emergence of Humanised Healthcare (9th December 2021, 14:00-15:00)

The session explains the Three Horizons framework using the example of a radical reframing of healthcare services in Fife, Scotland that shifted discussions about diagnosis and treatment into meaningful conversations about living a fulfilling life.

Three Horizons is a futures process that supports people to have better understanding around future possibilities in order to make better decisions today. Underpinning this framework is the belief that the future is created by “seeds” in the present and that we can create the future we want.

This Stories of Change session focuses on the reframing the healthcare services in Fife, Scotland – how people at the heart of the Fife healthcare system changed the culture of care from asking what’s the matter with you to what matters to you? Our facilitators come from The School of System Change and Forum of the Future. 

Workshop 6: Workshop 6: Stories of Change – A Practitioner’s Approach to Systems Change (16th December 2021, 14:00-15:00)

In this final workshop, we will look at how different approaches helps us with our systemic practice whilst also exploring what it means to intervene in systems. This workshop is recommended for participants who have joined at least two framework sessions or have background in systems framework in order to discuss how using one or more frameworks to help diagnose and understand the system and leading to intervening in systems.

The session explains how different frameworks can be useful to help us understand systems and dive into our own systemic practice with a focus on intervening in systems.

Programme Facilitator (Lead)

Dr Anna Birney
Director, School of System Change, Forum for the Future

Anna is passionate about designing and facilitating systems change programmes that support people, communities and organisations to transform their practice.

Anna started facilitating multi-stakeholder processes at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. At WWF-UK she ran a six-year education programme on system change, which included setting up 56 communities of practice to knit together innovative practices. This experience supported her to develop practical system change frameworks for WWF-UK and Forum for the Future as well as organisations including Unilever, Nike, Shell Foundation, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Innovate UK and the NHS, through the System Innovation Lab – experimenting and learning how to develop different practices. 

This led onto setting up the School of System Change where as well as overseeing the learning and curriculum, Anna now coaches on a wide number of projects and initiatives including the Marine CoLabthe #Oneless project and Oxfam’s System Innovation in Woman’s Economic Empowerment. She is the author of Cultivating System Change: A practitioner’s companion which is based on her PhD.

Each framework session is led by an experienced facilitator and coach from Forum for the Future. The team of workshop facilitators have used the frameworks in workshop setting, coaching 1:1 projects, and in their own projects.

School of System Change

The School of System Change has a range of learning offers depending on the level of system change practice in your work. The School’s curriculum is underpinned by the five core capabilities needed for systems change.

Forum for the Future, a leading sustainability non-profit, established the School of System Change in 2017. As both capacity-builder and field-convener, the School accelerates change agents’ journeys to gain necessary skills to realize a more just and sustainable future. The School:

  • Inspires change agents and provide them with the capabilities to lead system change initiatives;
  • Equips practitioners across NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, governments and more – to navigate and address complex challenges; and
  • Produces a wide array of learning experiences, tools and case studies, and amplifies others’ work in a global field of system change practice.

How to Register

We strongly encourage interested participants to join all of the workshops, if possible. The first and last workshops are critical to the learning and implementation of these frameworks, and we highly recommend participants to join at least two framework sessions offered between 18 November to 9 December 2021.

Registrations close on the 4th November at 5pm.


Click here to register

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