systemic change 2This four-week series by Fr Robert P. Maloney, C.M. aims at helping members of the Vincentian Family find more ways of talking and reflecting about concept systemic change and its implications. This week, Fr. Maloney looks at terminology. –.ed

The principle of systemic change, in the context of works among the poor, looks beyond providing food, clothing and shelter. Its particular focus is on assisting the needy to change structures in which they live and on helping them develop strategies by which they can emerge from poverty.

Systemic change should not the confused with systematic change. The latter phrase refers to a planned, step-by-step process. “Systematic change” can have very positive effects, but it may be limited in its scope, focusing on changing only one aspect of a larger system. “Systemic change” goes beyond that and focuses on the whole system. Put differently, systematic change describes a process: a way of bringing about a result. In contrast, systemic change is a result in which a complete series of interacting elements are transformed.

Although systematic methods may be used to bring about systemic change, systemic change requires tools made to help change attitudes. So, to use a phase often attributed to Albert Einstein, systemic change thinking helps us “to learn to see the world anew”. It provides tools for focusing on relationships among elements of a system, interprets a group’s experience of that system, and promotes structural change within.

Next: criteria of systemic change

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