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Wicked Lab's Framework

Transition your solution ecosystem using Wicked Lab's 9 Focus Areas

Nine Focus Areas to create systems change

Wicked Lab’s framework is underpinned by peer-reviewed research. It is based on complex adaptive systems theory and supports change-makers to tackle the multi-causal and interdependent nature of wicked problems. The framework includes 9 Focus Areas containing 36 characteristics that support systems to transition.


These Focus Areas support entire community systems to re-combine existing organisations and resources in a manner that improves system functioning and collective effort and importantly takes into account the role of government in enabling systemic community change.

The first five Focus Areas (1-5) are based on four Complex Systems Leadership Theories, and support communities to develop their adaptive capacity and transition the system to a new, more effective, way of working on the problem/opportunity. The remaining four Focus Areas (6-9) strengthen the interface between government bureaucracy, elected members and the community.

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9 Focus Areas 


Focus Area 1

​Communities are often locked into ways of working that are not suitable for addressing complex (wicked) problems. The first step in transitioning to a more appropriate way of working is to disrupt this current equilibrium.


Focus Area 2

​After the community system is disrupted, increasing the interdependent interconnections between community stakeholders and positive feedback dynamics, enables small changes to the community system to amplify quickly through the community creating substantive change.


Focus Area 3

​Once substantive change is created, initiatives can assist the elements of a community system to recombine around a new way of working.  Self-organisation involves system members and system resources recombining in new patterns of interaction and working arrangements that improve the functioning and the performance of the community system.


Focus Area 4

​​After a significant number of system elements have recombined around the new way of working, initiatives can assist the emergent change to be institutionalised throughout the community system. 


Focus Area 5

​Increasing the flow of information throughout community systems enables the adaptive dynamics of communities to be strengthened and communities to use information in their development of organised emergent solutions.  Information flows are required throughout the transition from the old way to the new way of working. 


Focus Area 6 + 7

​​These focus area centre on government systems undertaking unplanned exploration of solutions with communities, and aim to:

  1. prevent government systems from stifling and suppressing the beneficial interactive dynamics in communities, and 

  2. nurture those adaptive dynamics that align with the government's strategic directions


Focus Area 8 + 9

These focus area centre on government systems undertaking planned exploitation of community knowledge, ideas and innovations, and aim to exploit the creative outcomes that emerge from communities by integrating them into the work of government.  

International recognition for the model that underpins the Focus Areas

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The Tool for Systemic Change was included as an Innovation Spotlight (p.60) in the Embracing Innovation in Government  Global Trends 2018 report,  authored by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), in partnership with the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)Read more

The nine Focus Areas that underpin the Tool are described in the paper "Government’s role in social innovation: Balancing unplanned exploration and planned exploitation" which received the Best Overall Paper Award at the 4th International Social Innovation Research Conference in 2012. 

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