Balancing Acceleration and Systemic Impact: Finding leverage for transformation in SDG change strategies


Murphy, Ryan J. A. | Rava, Nenad | Jones, Peter H.

Acceleration increases the rate of progress toward system transformation. Systemic outcomes are durable impacts from coordinating foundational changes. We studied the form, leverage, quality, and effectiveness of theories of change in the 35 Joint Programmes of the UN’s Joint SDG Fund. We conducted four analyses on programme strategies: (1) Classified types of Theories of Change, (2) Analyzed cases to identify the most effective JP Theories of Change; (3) Defined how leverage could accelerate the SDGs and their targets for social protection; (4) Analyzed cases to show leverage in the JP’s change strategies. We argue that programmes with systemic theories of change and that show effective leverage will be more effective in accelerating the achievement of social protection. We advise designers of complex change strategies adopting these systemic design tools to formulate strategies for systems-level change. Our analyses identified important tensions in the pursuit of acceleration. While goal acceleration is a means to an end, acceleration can become the goal; we must balance by design for long-term systemic impact. These desiderata are relevant to large-scale transformation contexts such as SDG programmes, climate change strategies, and other contexts where leverage can both accelerate and reach systemic program goals.

Keywords: acceleration, systemic change, strategies, leverage, sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Posted Sep-2021


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Author(s) (20XX). Article title. In Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) 20XX Symposium. City, Country, Month X-X, 20XX.

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