The Art of Change Making

An introduction to The Art of Change Making. Curated and Produced by John Atkinson, Emma Loftus and John Jarvis. Published by The Leadership Centre, on behalf of the Systems Leadership Steering Group.

Why is it that so many long-standing social and economic problems are not resolved despite our best efforts? Childhood obesity is rising. Hospitals are at their limit in A&E and struggling to discharge people. In many parts of the country the economy is flat-lined. The list could go on.

Why is it that so many efforts to address this result in a costly maintenance of the status quo? We create new boards. We hire hugely expensive consultancy firms. We reconfigure our organisations. And yet these issues remain.

How do you really work to change the nature of the places we live in? So people live happier, healthier, more meaningful lives. Are we really able to do anything that changes this? Should we?

So much of our work is tied up in management speak, in pointless meetings where we are bored and wonder what if anything we all just achieved. We become slaves to the improvement process, see fads come and go and still we don’t seem to make the impact we hoped for.


It feels like we are cogs in some vast machine over which we have no control.

But we aren’t. We are people, operating in a complex web of relationships with other people. Each time we meet the opportunity is there to make something different happen. If we are prepared to let it, if we know how.

People have always studied and reflected on how social activity works, how anything gets to happen. Our current management model that found its epitome in ‘New Public Management’ is only one way to get things done. Its widespread integration into public services simply keeps them running as they are, perhaps necessary but certainly not sufficient to deal with a changing world.

There are many other ways to consider how we can change our organisations for the better. Ways that have been used around the world with widespread success for over a century. They treat our organisations and places as if they were social webs, not inhuman machines.

In The Art of Change Making we have brought together over 70 of these so people can see them, explore them and use them. We have made it freely available, to anyone, not just public servants. They apply, and have been applied, in the public sector, in global corporations and in community groups. In some respects they are the history of successful human change over the decades.

With little publicity, The Art of Change Making was downloaded thousands of times within days of putting it on line. You are invited to take a look, explore it and use it. And if you do, join us online or at The Festival of Leadership to share what you learned. So we can all learn from what you do.

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