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System Stewardship

Murmuration of the starlings in a sunset

Helping system actors work together

The issues we care about are complex – tangled, interdependent, and messy.


The outcomes we care about are not produced by any one organisation, programme, or person because they are too complex to be within the power of any one actor.


Outcomes are produced by systems – networks of interconnected actors.  In order to produce positive outcomes, we need to create healthy systems in which people and organisations are able to coordinate and collaborate effectively.


Since all the actors in a system are playing their part, it is important that someone take responsibility for ensuring the health of the system by helping to create the conditions in which others can work effectively - this activity is called ‘System Stewardship.’

In order to help create a healthy system, we need to know what a healthy system looks like.  The Lankelly Chase Foundation has identified the following nine healthy system behaviours, grouped under three headings:



  • People view themselves as part of an interconnected whole

  • People are viewed as resourceful and bringing strengths

  • People share a vision



  • Power is shared, and equality of voice actively promoted

  • Decision–making is devolved

  • Accountability is mutual



  • Open, trusting relationships enable effective dialogue

  • Leadership is collaborative and promoted at every level

  • Feedback and collective learning drive adaptation


These nine behaviours demonstrate when a place is functioning effectively as a system to meet the needs, and recognise the strengths, of people who experience severe and multiple disadvantage.

Our work as System Stewards involves helping people to understand the system and to make the system visible.  We help actors in the system to build relationships, trust and a shared sense of purpose.  We work to challenge and shift existing mindsets and assumptions, helping organisations to rethink how social change happens.

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