AOK Networks understand that to permanently improve the early childhood system, they must address the root causes of specific system issues that are getting in the way of children and families accessing the services and supports that could benefit them. This is why AOK Networks integrate a system change approach in their work.
A system change approach has several characteristics that distinguish it from other community system development approaches. First, system change efforts target root causes that represent powerful system leverage points. This means that some system root causes can create more powerful ripple effects on the system. So targeting these root causes for action is more powerful. In addressing these root causes, AOK Networks seek to permanently change the system. Even the best efforts to create system change will be temporary without addressing the underlying conditions that keeps the current problem locked in place. Finally, a system change approach seeks to create system changes that reach and benefit more people.
A system change approach starts with a system assessment to identify and understand how the system is ineffective at supporting children and families to reach critical outcomes. With the Child and Family Outcome Initiative, AOK Networks engage parents, providers, and others from the community to understand and then prioritize the system issues that must be addressed to better service children and families. Qualitative data collection methods and a root cause analysis help AOK Networks understand the big picture and interconnectivity of problems.
Knowing that some types of issues are more powerful to address than others, AOK Networks use their root cause analysis to prioritize which issues to address at different points in time. Strategies are then designed to address the prioritized root causes issues, along with the other system problems in the same root cause chain. In addition to designing strategies that specifically address the root cause chain problems, AOK Networks also design strategies that address the conditions for effective implementation, e.g., buy-in, capacity to implement, scale and dose of the effort. Then during implementation AOK Networks pay attention during implementation to learn what is and is not working using a continuous learning and adaptive action approach.
Systems Thinking and Continuous Improvement Practices
- Engage stakeholders throughout the process
- Keep the vision and targeted problem in focus
- Understand the big picture and interconnectivity of problems
- Identify powerful system leverage points for change (root causes)
- Design and implement strategies that focus on system root causes
- Create the conditions for effective implementation
- Continuously learn and adapt for results