“This report builds on an earlier National Fund evaluation report that focused on three areas of systems change engaged in by collaboratives and partnerships: public policy change, institutional change, and changes in employer practices. This publication extends the examination of systems change efforts and reflects an expanded, more nuanced understanding of systems change as it is achieved through the Fund. It helps to clarify the concept of systems change as it applies to workforce development by describing the National Fund’s framework for understanding systems change. The framework, developed with National Fund collaborative directors, includes changes to educational and workforce development systems, employer practices, federal and state policies, and investments, as well as changes in funder perspectives and investments. (The framework is later described in more detail.) The report describes examples in each of these areas of the framework.
The report elucidates findings of a 2013 survey of National Fund collaboratives, which found that making systems change was one of the ways that collaboratives had been most successful in their work. Among their most significant achievements, collaboratives noted realizing significant changes in public policy, developing new demand-driven workforce partnership models, and building new regional leadership mechanisms to catalyze change and promote workforce innovation.
Evidence of systems change is drawn from collaboratives and communities across the country, working in a variety of industry sectors. These examples demonstrate some of the steps undertaken by communities to move toward and achieve systems change, such as convening groups that have never interacted previously; improving communication structures among employers, education/training providers, and job seekers; and experimenting with changes in employer practice. The report also describes a number of ways that employers are showing leadership in acting to support the advancement of frontline workers, and surveys how the work of National Fund communities continues to influence public policy and investments. This research adds a less commonly considered element of systems change, how funders’ perspectives and activities are altered as a result of their participation in National Fund activities.” (p.2).
Major Findings & Recommendations
“Lessons Learned Among the lessons drawn from the experience of National Fund collaboratives and partnerships in pursuing systems change is that systems change is not an overnight process. It takes time, patience, and perseverance to continue to pursue change at any level. Building individual and organizational relationships and establishing trust through collaboration are essential to the foundation of working toward change. Relationships must be built at multiple levels of organizations, not only to gain authorization for change but also to ensure its execution. Qualitative information as well as data on labor market dynamics help to make the case for systems change. Strong leadership is required to facilitate creating a vision for change and give credibility to the effort among stakeholders. Success in one region or state can be leveraged elsewhere to promote change in other communities.”(p.x). The report concludes with the actions to create successful collaboratives: “Convening is necessary for the development of shared understanding and goals that foster systems change. As stakeholders work together, relationships are forged, trust is established and perspectives are altered, all of which are required for the changes ultimately achieved in practice, policy and behavior. Collaboratives and partnerships further contribute to promoting change through their intentional efforts to build the capacity of individuals and organizations and provide information that influences discussions and strategy development among stakeholders. Systems change is essentially a process of planning, acting, evaluating and learning, but it cannot happen without the strong connections that are built through collaborative and partnership efforts… The experience of National Fund communities shows that systems change is indeed achievable. Their success suggests that communities outside the Fund can pursue change within and among systems when they establish and build on strong practice demonstrated by Fund communities. Developing strong community partnerships among workforce stakeholders, engaging employers in meaningful ways that provide insight into industry needs and expand opportunities for frontline workers, and using data to drive actions can provide the foundation to support systems change” (p.xi). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)