Introduction: “Risk is not destiny”

by Jamie Gamble, Penny Hagen, Kate McKegg and Sue West.

This blog is the first post within the Innovate for Impact blog series. “Risk is not destiny” discusses why we need to radically ‘change our thinking and operating’ if we are to address the complex issues facing children and families.

The challenges ahead of us

We have known for a long time, quite a bit about the factors that lead to negative outcomes for our vulnerable populations, such as children. This is not the challenge we are facing. The challenge ahead of us is what we should do about it.

Communities have a plethora of programmes and services and the last thing they need is a new program or service. Despite the investment and effort we are making, we’re not making much headway at a population level.

In societies of abundance, where wealth generation has been spectacular in recent decades, the health and wellbeing of our children is worsening. Change, disruption, and uncertainty are frequent in society – we’re seeing a kind of social climate change unfold before our very eyes. And the ability for our communities to adapt and respond in the face of this uncertainty is not even.

The problems we now face are ‘wicked.’ These highly entangled messes involve many diverse stakeholders, perspectives and values. As a result, there is very little certainty about the way forward. We cannot predict the results of our actions in this complexity, we can only learn our way through them.

Business as usual is no longer working for us

Amidst this complexity, we simply cannot continue using approaches that used to work for us. Business as usual is no longer working for us. Our old ways of thinking and working are grounded in assumptions about change that no longer hold.

Our traditional planning and decision-making models mostly assume static forms of change, and they have a linear logic that works when we have an agreement about what the problem is, and certainty about what the solutions might be. But in complex change, these assumptions and models don’t serve us well.

Transformative change

Top down, expert models of planning and execution are not well suited to managing and operating when responding to complex issues. “We need to move away from diagnosing and treating to listening and responding.” 2

If we’re serious about being able to create transformative change, we have to transform ourselves; transform our ways of thinking, acting and relating. We have to see our communities as collaborators, and co-designers, authentic partners and decision makers in creating change.

In complex change we have to be creative and passionate if we are to be truly innovative – and it is imperative that we shed the boundaries in our minds that keep us snapping back to old ways of thinking and operating.  Shifting power is imperative if we are to address equity in meaningful and authentic ways.

This kind of shift is going to challenge all parts of current system. This disruption and shift may be welcome in principle but not always in practice when the changes start to be required.

Innovate for Impact blog series

This blog post is part of a series identifying shifts the co-authors believe are emerging and important to community service and systems change. Links to the other posts (as they published) are below.

More Innovate for Impact resources

The Innovate for Impact blog series is co-authored by Jamie Gamble (Imprint Consulting), Penny Hagen (Auckland Co-design Lab) and Kate McKegg (The Kinnect Group) in collaboration with Sue West from the Centre for Community Child Health.

Contact Sue West for Innovate for Impact blog series enquiries.

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