Systems Change + Input =

By Andrew Bocher, Emerging Nonprofit Specialist, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

Systems Change

At the last Organizer Roundtable put on by the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, someone asked how we (organizers, in this context) can start seeing past single issues to face the larger systemic issues before us. The examples given for these larger problems were patriarchy and capitalism. Now that’s a loaded question…

I would love to chat with this person sometime to try and unpack what they were asking, but I didn’t bring this question up to analyze it – I brought it up because I think it strikes a chord in a lot of social justice workers. Even if it’s sort of an unanswerable, rhetorical question, it still resonates strongly with me on an emotional level. I don’t have the answer, but I get it. When I think about all of the injustice that exists today – whether it’s the increasing racial disparities in Minnesota, the continuous theft of Indigenous land for profit throughout the world, or the fact that confirmed homicides of transgender women have nearly doubled in the past year within the U.S. – I begin to feel paralyzed. I wonder the same thing as the person who asked this question.

Luckily for those of us who share similar concerns, we’re not alone! We don’t have to start from scratch when trying to come up with solutions that address underlying systemic causes. In fact, lots of people have acted on this concern. These people have written books, hosted conferences, and started nonprofits, among other things.

+ Input

Like all personality assessments, StrengthsFinder should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it can be very telling at times. ‘Input’ was one of my strengths. This means I like to gather input. And there’s definitely some truth to that. My list of ‘books to read’ would probably take about 600 years to get through, and I probably hold the VISTA world record for ‘number of articles/reports printed at host site’. When it comes to music, I’ve got a list of artists to check out that only grows longer with time.


My obsession with ‘input’ and my commitment to systems change efforts have led me to scour the internet for relevant organizations, publications, and resource directories. I’d like to take this chance to share some with the hope that they might somehow be useful to anybody and everybody reading this.


Interaction Institute for Social Change

Check out the blog on this one. Consistently valuable information centered on systems change, equity, and the importance of networks in today’s social justice movement.

Building Movement Project

This group offers incredible tools for service and social change, leadership, and movement building. I strongly recommend reading their process guide on how an organization can begin to integrate social change work into their social service work.

The Culture Group

The Culture Group operates on the premise that there can be no social change without cultural change. They wrote this (very pretty) report, “Making Waves: A Guide to Cultural Strategy.”

Center for Social Inclusion

The Center for Social Inclusion is all about advocating for policy strategies that will – as stated in their mission – “transform structural inequity and exclusion into structural fairness and inclusion.” Some of their reports are on my list of ‘things to read’ that I will probably never get around to reading.

POC Online Classroom

A blog and collection of resources. Topics include race & empire, communities & identities, transformative justice, feminism & heteropatriarchy, and love & self-care.