System innovation

What does it take to change a system?

Denmark has some of the best social systems in the world. And yet like many other societies we are now facing big societal challenges that those systems were not designed to meet. We need not just innovative solutions but system innovation. This initiative will equip leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs with the practical knowledge and tools to embark on system innovation.

There is always innovation going on inside a system to improve its performance, and not all systems need to change. We need more fundamental system innovation in two situations:

  • When a challenge is ‘stuck’, and we can’t achieve further gains from the same system model. Our own research shows that, for example, despite well-functioning employment services the same proportion of young people have remained disconnected from education and employment for the last 15 years. That points to a need for more fundamental system change.
  • When society faces a new, systemic challenge that our existing systems were not designed to cope with, such as an ageing population, or widespread mental health challenges. Here we need new operating models that can underpin systems better able to meet these growing challenges.

Upcoming events

As systems change becomes more urgent, so does the question of how to shift systems. Our paper Building Better Systems introduced four keys to unlock system innovation: purpose, power, relationships and resource flows. Join us over the next few months when we launch a new webinar series and articles with frameworks on how to put these keys to work, and delving deeper into the issues involved with a host of inspiring systems innovation practitioners.


We hope you will join us! Read more and sign up here.


How do we move forward when improving our existing systems is no longer enough? It is easy to say that ‘systems need to change’ and much harder to do in practice: many social innovations fail to have significant impact because they don’t shift the systems around them. Because systemic challenges cross public, private and civic boundaries, they need a different kind of collaborative innovation.


This initiative aims to close the gap between system theory and system change in practice. We will be working with collaborators in Denmark and around the world who are experts in different aspects of system innovation, and innovative leaders and entrepreneurs who have transformed systems in practice. The goal is to build the practical knowledge, frameworks, methods and relationships that can help people who are part of enacting system change – whether they are leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers, regulators or community advocates – to create the next generation of systems for public good.

Contact information

Director of Social Innovation Jennie Winhall,

 Read more about system innovation on the initiative’s homepage



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