Pierce County System Map of Family Stability

To tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems we need to collaborate to achieve significant and lasting social change. No single policy, government department, organization or program can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society. Addressing the issues of persistent poverty, financial instability, and low-wage stagnation among families requires a collaborative collective impact approach.

The approach calls for multiple organisations or entities from different sectors to abandon their own agenda in favor of a common agenda, shared measurement and alignment of effort. Unlike collaboration or partnership, Collective Impact initiatives have centralised infrastructure – known as a backbone organization – with dedicated staff whose role is to help participating organizations shift from acting alone to acting in concert.

How would you get started?

First, you might want to create a system’s map to consider all of the key stakeholders involved around the problem. There are some great guides to creating actor maps. An actor map is a visual depiction of the key organizations and individuals that influence a topic, allowing insight into the players within a system.

I took a slightly different approach by using Prezi to add layers and deeper complexity to the map. For the purposes of this map, I focused on an economic stability lens and strategies that align with the 5 pillars of self-sufficiency. EMPath’s Bridge to Self-Sufficiency® is a theory of change that takes a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to fostering economic mobility. The theory describes a person’s advancement from poverty to economic self-sufficiency as a journey across a bridge supported by five critical pillars—family stability, well-being, education and training, financial management, and employment and career management. To successfully cross this bridge and reach economic self-sufficiency, the traveler must attain explicitly defined objectives in each of these five areas.

This map is designed to accomplish a few things:

  1. Helps assess broad community efforts to help families become financially stable
  2. Proposes a client-led advisory council with content experts
  3. Helps identify core strategies around the 5 pillars of self-sufficiency
  4. Helps identify core services in each pillar and the level of support (Universal, Targeted, Intensive).



Elements that Help Frame this map

Human-Centered Design

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving. Human-centered design consists of three phases. In the Inspiration Phase you’ll learn directly from the people you’re designing for as you immerse yourself in their lives and come to deeply understand their needs. In the Ideation Phase you’ll make sense of what you learned, identify opportunities for design, and prototype possible solutions. And in the Implementation Phase you’ll bring your solution to life, and eventually, to market. And you’ll know that your solution will be a success because you’ve kept the very people you’re looking to serve at the heart of the process.