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This website was created by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), part of the OECD Public Governance Directorate (GOV).

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Online Tool for Systemic Change

The Tool for Systemic Change assists communities and government to address wicked problems by diagnosing the different types of wicked problems that affects the communities, accompanied by an scorecard that highlights the gaps in the current efforts and proposes strategies to address the problems.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The online Tool for Systemic Change has been developed to assist communities and governments to address complex wicked problems. “Wicked problems” cannot be successfully addressed through traditional linear, analytical approaches because of their multi-causality and interdependencies, and governments have difficulty in taking a complexity approach.
The product of a PhD research project, the tool addresses all wicked problems. Our methodology asserts that there must be a systemic innovation and solution ecosystem approach that is underpinned by complex adaptive system. We have turned this approach into an online, diagnostic tool.
The online Tool for Systemic Change has of nine focus areas. The first 5 focus areas and 26 initiative characteristics assist communities to transition to more coherent and effective ways of working by taking a systemic innovation and solution ecosystem approach when addressing wicked problems. The final four focus areas and 10 initiative characteristics enable governments to actively support this approach.
In addition to assisting governments and communities to address wicked problems, the online Tool for Systemic Change measure systems change: it measures impact by tracking and measuring the occurrence of the Tool’s 36 systems change characteristics as a community addresses a wicked problem.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

The tool is used by entering all of the current initiatives of a solution ecosystem into the tool, which enables a scorecard for addressing the problem in the target community to be produced. Once all of this data is entered, the scorecard shows the density of effort at each of the 36 initiative characteristics for any selected time range. The gaps in current effort, where initiative characteristics are not currently included in the initiatives of the solution ecosystem, can be highlighted by selecting the software’s ‘show gaps in effort’ button. With the gaps in current effort clearly identified, strategies can be developed to address the gaps and increase the system functioning and performance of the solution ecosystem.

What is the current status of your innovation?

A 6 month pilot of the program is nearing completion which has been undertaken with four diverse participants: a European consultant, a South Australian local government employee, a South Australian state government employee and a community leader from the Northern Adelaide region. The local government employee is from the City of Onkaparinga. Wicked Lab will be conducting an evaluation at the completion of the pilot. Learning to date from the pilot has resulted in Wicked Lab choosing two main focus areas for the tool: using it as a solution innovation lab methodology and using it as a lens to increase the systemic impact of innovations. Wicked Lab has recently developed two new programs: a Program for Systemic Innovation Labs and a System Entrepreneur Program.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

The model was developed in partnership with City of Onkaparinga staff and active citizens from its leadership program. The City of Onkaparinga supported the pilot of the Complex Systems Leadership Program by funding a staff member to participate and allocated additional staff to enter data into the tool.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Society at large, and geographical communities benefit, as the tool takes a solution ecosystem approach: the tool increases the coherence of all the initiatives in a geographical community that are addressing any of the interdependent causal factors that underpin a targeted wicked problem. Governments benefit because tackling wicked problems requires emergent community responses, which encourages improving upon the traditional models of governance.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Part of the tool, the Complex Systems Leadership Program provides participants with the knowledge and skills required to use the tool to support community transitions in “real time”. The learning outcomes of the participants will be validated at the completion of the pilot: the four participants will complete a post-program online survey form and be interviewed to confirm the knowledge and skills that they have gained during the program.

Challenges and Failures

The key challenge has been that the tool is a disruptive innovation and therefore a market has needed to be created for the tool. A disruptive innovation also requires a whole product solution to be created to encourage customers to adopt the tool. Techniques used to create the market include providing webinars called ‘complexity snapshots’ to enable potential adopters of the tool to have exposure to this approach for a minimal investment, publishing in peer-reviewed journals to further validate the approach, and presenting at practitioner events. Packaging the tool within the Complex Systems Leadership Program has been Wicked Lab’s first attempt at providing a whole product solution. Learning from the program’s pilot has resulted in Wicked Lab deciding to offer two programs in the future that will provide separate whole product solutions for the tool’s two identified key target markets: solution innovation labs and system entrepreneurs.

Conditions for Success

Key success factors include: having a strong, diverse and experienced team and a lead customer that embraces innovation.


The need for the tool is widespread as all governments are tackling wicked problems and are confronting the reality that traditional linear, analytical approaches do not work when addressing these problems. The tool can be used by any level of government to support the transition of solution ecosystems to more appropriate ways of working for addressing wicked problems. Both state and local government employees participated in the pilot of the Complex Systems Leadership Program and Wicked Lab recently provided a submission to the Inquiry into the Australian Government's role in the development of cities. The feedback received from presenting at international forums has confirmed that the tool’s use goes beyond being just used by Australian governments; the first participating customer in the pilot program was from the Netherlands.

Lessons Learned

Being part of a global community that is advancing complex adaptive systems approaches for addressing wicked problems has provided opportunities for learning, reflection, support and recognition through the innovation process.

Year: 2017
Level of Government: National/Federal government


  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

18 October 2017

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