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Cultivating the field and practice of systems change

We support the emergence of systems change practice, to advance the wellbeing of people and planet

Through the power of learning and sharing

We are an international network for people who are seeking to shift harmful systems towards justice, health and balance. 

We work towards a world in which people are deeply connected to each other and the living planet.   One where we are awake to possibilities and naturally able to embrace and deal with complexity. 


We: 

Learn across different ways of knowing, being and practicing systems change


Connect people together who facilitate, train and fund system change practice internationally


Support experiments to help the field to expand, strengthen and deepen.

Why Illuminate?

The current field of practice provides valuable frameworks, processes and tools to help guide and deepen the transformations that are needed. 

But much of this work is disconnected, making information and practitioners hard to find and access. 

At the same time, whilst promising and growing in influence, people and practices currently identified with the field are predominantly from  a white, western and academic culture.

We know valuable practices for systems change are scattered among different disciplines and cultures. 

We want to center those people and practices as the field grows, to support the emergence of the field internationally with equity at its core.

Our Focus

We support pathways of collective learning and sharing by creating connection across experience, practice and theories.

We link people together who facilitate, train and fund system change practices. In this first phase of work we have four strategic pathways:

Build effective network structures 

That can support this work in the long-term.

Map the capacity-building landscape

We’re building a comprehensive map of the training, tools, funding, and other resources currently available to system leaders. 

Connect, deepen and weave learning

On-going research to understand the needs of the field and to generate new learning, connectivity and collaborations.

Build equity into our foundations

Expand connections among diverse practitioners and capacity builders to decenter white/western cultural dominance in this field.

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Story so far

How It All Began

In June 2018, we co-convened an event on Wasan Island, Canada, bringing together practitioners, academics, and funders to explore together how we might work together to build the field of systems change.

In the context of growing use of the term “systems change” and increasing interest in systemic approaches to address some of the world’s most complex challenges, we co-convened a retreat in June 2018 bringing together practitioners, academics, funders to explore together how we might work together to build the field of systems change.

Pathways To Building The Field

In the run-up to the retreat, we asked people attending and unable to attend to offer their definitions of systems change, and of field-building. In June we spent three days on Wasan Island, Canada, with a group of 25 people exploring pathways to building the field. 

These pathways are interlocking, mutually supportive routes from where we are today to a desired future. They form a nested hierarchy, with the “Stewardship” pathway supporting the other four, which together contribute to cultivating systems change practice in service of our collective purpose.


2019/2020 Building infrastructure 

Our goal is to build and sustain a nimble network infrastructure including governance, integration of learning and practice sharing, coordination and communication that will support nodes and leads working across network and geographies to accomplish the purpose of the Illuminate network in the long term. 

Many members of the Stewardship Group met in London in Autumn/Fall 2019 to move the agenda forward. 

Since then we have been meeting as a Stewardship Group throughout 2020 in different constellations Chaired by Tatiana Fraser (The Systems Sanctuary). Members of the group in no particular order include Rachel Sinha (The Systems Sanctuary), Anna Birney (The School for Systems Change), Laura Winn (The School for Systems Change), Russ Gaskin (CoCreative), Ruth Rominger (The Garfield Foundation), Jen Berman (The Garfield Foundation), Marta Ceroni (The Academy of Systems Change), Mary Tangelder (Mastercard Foundation), Alice Evans (Lankelly Chase), Darcy Riddell (McConnell now MakeWay) and Ana Claudia Goncalves (Institute for Strategic Clarity). 

As with most networks we are building our infrastructure at the same time as launching inquiries and starting multiple new projects.  

Subgroups were created this year led by members of the Stewardship Group exploring different ‘nodes’ of our emerging network. They included working groups on equity, engagement, our partnership framework and network model, SIGNAL research, and our learning and fundraising strategies amongst others.  

Over the summer we hired Luis Alejandro Tapia as a strategy consultant to lead us through a process of taking the network to the next level strategically. Using an emergent strategy approach, he has held us accountable to find the next elegant steps towards hiring a coordinator to manage the implementation of our work. We hope to hire that person in early 2021. 

Part of our work this year has been to build this brand and website and we have plans underway to create an online community. Our next steps are to build connectivity across all of the activities through weaving learning, hosting a Webinar series that profiles the great work of the network, and plans for our first of many network convenings.

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