The Water of Systems Change

Author: Kania, J., Kramer, M., Senge, P. (2018)

Kramer, Mark R., John Kania, and Peter Senge (June 2018). “The Water of Systems Change.” Report, FSG.


The Water of Systems Change provides a tool designed to advance equity by identifying and shifting systemic conditions that hold social problems in place. This document describes six conditions that influence social change within a system, incorporating these into a framework that illustrates their interrelationships and provides an actionable model to facilitate equitable systems change. This framework outlines three levels of systems change (Structural, Relational, Transformative) with varying degrees of visibility, ranging from explicit to implicit. To achieve greater impact and sustainability, changemakers are encouraged to work at all three levels, with a greater focus on the least explicit but most influential conditions for social change. Changemakers are also encouraged to examine internal conditions and confront changes needed within their own organizations.

Potential use

For individuals and organizations working to advance equity by creating systems-level social change, especially those interested in addressing deep-seated and less visible systemic conditions that contribute to inequity.

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