Theme 6_1_

Systems Expert
Cynthia Rayner, Adjunct Lecturer & Senior Researcher, University of Cape Town

ECD Expert
Sharon Goldfeld, Director of the Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital

Shekufeh Zonji, Global Technical Lead, ECDAN

Session Description

The issues of poverty, inequality, racial justice, and climate change have never been more pressing or paralyzing. Current approaches to social change, which rely on industrial models of production and power, often do not have their intended positive impacts, and, in fact, may entrench the status quo.

In this session, I will draw on two hundred years of history and a treasure trove of stories of committed social change-makers to uncover principles and practices for social change that radically depart from industrial approaches, harnessing connection, context, and power for enduring change.

Drawing on specific case examples, we will dive into ‘systems work’ principles–fostering connection, embracing context, and reconfiguring power. We will then look at the practices that support these principles–cultivating collectives, equipping problem-solvers, promoting platforms, and disrupting policies. We will also discuss comparative case study analysis as an evaluation technique, utilizing the power of stories to evaluate organizational and network progress towards systems change.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will develop a better understanding of the following:

  • The difference between simple, complicated and complex problems.
  • The principles and practices of systems work – Practical case studies of systems work.
  • Applying systems work approaches to complex social issues.
  • Using comparative case study analysis to evaluate approaches to systems change.

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Speaker Bios

Cynthia Rayner, Adjunct Lecturer & Senior Researcher, University of Cape Town

Cynthia is an independent consultant, researcher and storyteller, focusing on how organizations and communities work together to shape social systems. She has more than two decades of experience working in the nonprofit and corporate sectors, first as a management consultant and later in several organizations supporting children and families in South Africa. Her current affiliations include Senior Researcher with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. Her book, The Systems Work of Social Change, was recently awarded the Alliance for Nonprofit Management’s Terry McAdam Book Award for “Changing the Way We Think” in 2022.

Sharon Goldfeld, Director of the Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital

Professor Sharon Goldfeld is a paediatrician, public health researcher and policy advisor focussing on child development and health equity. She is Director of the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital, and Theme Director for Population Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. With a decade of experience in state government as a senior public servant in health and education, and an outstanding track record, Sharon has successfully straddled research and policy. Her expertise is highly sought after with appointments to government Expert Advisory Groups in health, education and social services departments including her recent appointment to the National Early Years Strategy Advisory Group.

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Have any questions or ideas for the series, contact [email protected].

For more resources on systems thinking, please visit the Systems Thinking for ECD webpage.