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Published Articles

2016. Societal Change Systems: A Framework to Address Wicked Problems

Waddell, Steve. 2016. “Societal Change Systems:  A framework and tool to address wicked problems.” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 52(4):422-40.

Issues such as climate change, poverty, sustainable agriculture, and health care are described as wicked, messy, complex, and multi-level: they involve many hundreds of organizations at a national level; at a global level this easily increases to many thousands. Their dynamics are constantly changing with changes in knowledge, power, resources and other factors. Emerging their collective power into an effective force represents an enormous organizing challenge. Drawing from complexity and global networking knowledge, and building on the concept of “innovation system,” a new article develops the concept of “societal change system” (SCS) as a framework to support addressing the organizing challenge.

The insights arose through analysis of global change initiatives aiming to integrate sustainability concerns into the production of electricity, which included a meeting of leaders of such change initiatives. The activities produced recommendations for greatly enhancing change efforts with pragmatic steps to develop the societal change system in which they are embedded.

2015. Large Scale Change Action Research

Waddell, S., McLachlan, M., Meszoely, G., & Waddock, S. ( 2015). Large Scale Change Action Research. In H. Bradbury (Ed.), Action Research Handbook (pp. 538-548): Sage.

Action researchers addressing change are often confronted by two key problems. One is that the issue they are addressing, even if apparently local, is often heavily influenced by larger systems within which the issue is embedded. Working to solve a problem at a neighborhood or local community level inevitably hits up against the structures and decision-making processes that the community might believe are beyond its capacity to influence. We refer to this as the embedded system issue. Some action researchers start with a large scale in mind, but the second problem for many is that adequately expanding the focus to systems of such scale and with such an array of actors and geographies create a perception that the task is beyond the scope of action research approaches. We call this the methodology for scale issue. In our chapter we illustrate and develop a framework for understanding and addressing these action research issues using two cases. We conclude by proposing seven guidance notes for scalable action researchers who want to address these issues.

2015. Large Systems Change: An Emerging Field of Transformation and Transitions

Waddell, S., Waddock, S., Cornell, S., Dentoni, D., McLachlan, M., & Meszoely, G. (2015). Large Systems Change: An Emerging Field of Transformation and Transitions. Journal of Corporate Citizenship(58).

In this paper we put forward a theory of large systems change (LSC), where large systems are defined as having breadth (i.e. engaging large numbers of people, institutions, and geographies) and depth (i.e. changing the complex relationships among elements of power and structural relationships simultaneously). We focus primarily on transformational LSC, recognising that such systems are complex adaptive systems in which change is continuous and emergent, but directions can be supported. A typology of change actions with two core dimensions—‘confrontation’ and ‘collaboration’ on the horizontal axis and ‘generative’ and ‘ungenerative’ change on the vertical—suggests that change strategies can be classified into four broad archetypes: forcing change, supporting change, paternalistic change, or co-creating change. LSC theory development focuses on three core questions: what is the foundation of LSC concepts and methods, what needs to change, and how does LSC occur? We conclude by reviewing how papers in the Special Issue fit into these questions.

2014. Large Systems Change: Producing the Change We Want

Waddell, Steve, Hsueh, Joe, Birney, Anna, Khorsani, Amir, & Feng, Wen. (2014). Turning point – large systems change: Producing the change we want. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 2014(53), 5-8. doi: 10.9774/

Transformation and large systems change is not something that can be planned. However, understanding change pathways can support strategies to enhance our ability to produce desired futures. Systems mapping provides a range of ways to visualise change systems, a concept that is introduced here as critical to understanding change pathways. This is followed by a proposal of how to look at the DNA of these systems through two additional concepts: five sub-systems and seven functions in each of those systems.

2013. 2014. Social partnerships’ development challenge: Comprehensive self-development

Social partnerships’ development challenge:  Comprehensive self-development. In M. Seitanidi & A. Crane (Eds.), Social partnerships and responsible business:  A research handbook (pp. 374-381). New York, NY, USA: Routledge. 2014.

This is a chapter in a collection by leading analysts who critically examine the motivations for, processes within, and expected and actual outcomes of cross-sector partnerships.  In opening up new theoretical, methodological, and practical perspectives on cross-sector social interactions, this book reimagines partnerships in order to explore the potential to contribute to the social good. A multi-disciplinary perspective on partnerships adds serious value to the debate in a range of fields including management, politics, public management, sociology, development studies, and international relations.

The chapter looks at social partnerships through the lens of eight competencies that have been identified as key to effective social partnerships:  leadership, network development, measurement, change, communications, learning, advocacy, and resource mobilization.  Although many of the names of the competencies are similar to those for other types of organizations, the chapter explains their distinctive qualities for social partnerships in terms of skills, knowledge and attributes.

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