Image Source:

Not every issue holding a large and complex problem like homelessness in place can be addressed by local action. But many can. Over the last 18 months, Collaborate have been working with Homeless Link to understand how ideas about systems change can help those working to improve local responses to homelessness.

What we found was that people didn’t want more theory. They wanted practical ideas to help them make a difference. And the more we looked, the more we found those practical ideas were all around, embedded in the activities of organisations up and down the country, playing systemic roles within their local contexts.

But making sustained progress on a problem like homelessness is bigger than the work of any single organisation. It requires collaboration between organisations playing different systemic roles. Our task was to identify these roles and the difference that could be made if, in every place, there were organisations playing each of them.

It is the stories of these organisations and the lessons they generate for local change-makers that is the basis of Changing local systems: Practical guidance for people working to improve local responses to homelessness, written by Collaborate and published last week by Homeless Link at their Everyone In For Good conference.

The stories include those working in small local charities and large national organisations, in local authorities and those building social movements. They demonstrate how leadership for local systems change can come from anyone and anywhere, and how organisations of all sizes and from any sector can play a role. Through the frameworks we develop in the report we show how the lessons from these stories might be applied by local change makers in other places, appropriately flexed according to differences in context. We hope the stories will inspire collaborative local action and the frameworks help to guide it, to make a real difference to the lives of people who are homeless.