Integration Design Consortium
02 - Steering Committee in Discussion.JPG

fsg / Policylink / 

systems leadership institute

Working in collaboration, FSG, PolicyLink and Systems Leadership Institute are building community capacity to support integrative problem-solving by developing the knowledge and skills of local leaders to manage change within complex social systems.


FSG's Approach

FSG’s approach is fundamentally based on the need to engage a broad system of actors who influence outcomes for students in the educational system. In partnership with PolicyLink and the Systems Leadership Institute, they believe that transforming educational systems is ultimately about transforming the relationships among the various organizations and people who shape those systems. They are working with two communities—Staten Island, NY and Oceanside, CA—to support this necessary but elusive transformation by integrating three disciplines:

Systems Thinking – helping community and district leaders observe and understand root causes of problems and focus on higher-leverage change strategies.

Collective Impact – bringing together people and organizations across sectors in a structured way to achieve social change.

Equity Framing – increasing the capacity of stakeholders to understand and inquire together into the social, political and cultural dynamics (such as the interplay of power, race, and socioeconomics) within their system.


Steering Committee
They have formed a Steering Committee (typically 25-30 individuals) that has agreed to meet on a monthly basis in the first year of the work. Meetings are facilitated by members of the consulting team at first, with that responsibility transferred to members of the community over time.

Capacity Building Workshops
The three organizations collaborate to provide the capacity building support required to assist the community in moving forward their systems change effort within their school district and community using the Collective Impact approach. This includes prioritizing intensive and broad community engagement on problem definition, creating space for reflection and generative conversations to build trust across stakeholders, establishing systems for communication across existing silos, conducting data analysis to elevate disparities in outcomes, and setting up a backbone entity to manage the process.

Collaborative Decision Making
The three organizations bring together multiple stakeholders from the community—including school districts, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, residents and families, and many others—to collectively make decisions around what problem to address. With that noted, the team began its process by ensuring that district leaders (i.e., superintendents) were on board with this approach, as the team believes they are critical for success and sustainability.


Members of the Steering Committee in Staten Island in discussion during a recent Steering Committee meeting in a rather unlikely location – a vacant house on church property.

Community members participate in the Systems Leadership Workshop held in late January on St. John’s University’s Staten Island campus.

Steering Committees in both Staten Island and Oceanside are taking a results-based approach to their work as illustrated above.





Community Pitch Document - Used in the partner site selection process 

Operationalizing Equity - An introduction to making equity actionable (presented at the first Staten Island workshop by PolicyLink)

Introduction to Collective Impact - A primer to the process, structures, and reasoning behind Collective Impact

Systems Learning Introduction and Systems Learning Tools - Introduction to the underlying logic behind Systems Thinking and some tools associated with practicing Systems Thinking (presented by Systems Leadership Institute at the first Staten Island workshop)

Integrating Collective Impact and Systems Thinking - A presentation that shows how the practices of Collective Impact and Systems Thinking can be used in unison

The Water of Systems Change

The Water of Systems Change Action Learning Exercise

Building Shared Understanding to Improve Outcomes for Staten Island’s Children and Families




John Kania - Managing Director at FSG

John Kania - Managing Director at FSG

David Garfunkel - Associate Director at FSG

David Garfunkel - Associate Director at FSG

Hayling Price - Senior Consultant at FSG

Hayling Price - Senior Consultant at FSG

Michael McAfee - President and CEO at PolicyLink

Michael McAfee - President and CEO at PolicyLink

Jessica Pizarek - Senior Associate at PolicyLink

Jessica Pizarek - Senior Associate at PolicyLink

Peter Senge - Founder of Systems Leadership Institute

Peter Senge - Founder of Systems Leadership Institute

About FSG

FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm. They are experienced advisors to corporate, foundation, and nonprofit/NGO leaders. Through our combination of customized consulting services, powerful insights, and ground-breaking initiatives, we help clients around the world create social impact.

FSG uses their expertise in strategic planning, implementation, and evaluation to help clients improve their work in areas that range from health to economic development to education. They believe that real change is possible, that tomorrow doesn’t have to be like today, and that passionate people infused with new insights and heightened aspirations can work together to transform our world.

About PolicyLink

PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity by Lifting Up What Works®. They seeks to deliver and scale results in the following arenas:

  • Equitable Economy: Promote economic inclusion and ownership to eliminate poverty, shrink inequality, and increase mobility.
  • Healthy Communities of Opportunity: Create and maintain opportunity-rich communities in all neighborhoods and all regions of the country through strong networks and social capital, equitable development, and infrastructure investments that enable low-income people and communities of color to thrive.
  • Just Society: Build power and expand agency to ensure that all systems and institutions are just, free of racial bias, and lead to a vibrant democracy where all, especially the most vulnerable, can participate and prosper.

PolicyLink succeeds by weaving together four essential functions:

  • Advocacy that advances policy change at all levels of government and across sectors.
  • Applied research and communications that build public and political will for inclusion, justice, and broadly shared prosperity.
  • Constituency and network engagement that empowers leaders to advance equity.
  • Implementation capacity that connects local innovations to policy and gives people and organizations the tools and networks they need.

About SLI

The Systems Leadership Institute is a Massachusetts based nonprofit founded in 1997. They facilitate connections between organizations, businesses, and individuals through organizational learning. The  Systems Leadership Institute aspires to connect people with the tools and community support they need to tackle today’s complex and evolving issues.