Launch of £1 million System Change Initiative in Renfrewshire to tackle inequality through service design, system dynamics and rapid cycle testing.


About the Early Action System Change Fund

Dartington Service Design Lab, Renfrewshire Council, Engage Renfrewshire, Action for Children, Barnardo’s and the Ariel Trust will undertake a three-year System Change Initiative to promote young people’s emotional well-being, and address emotional coercive control in adolescent relationships. It forms part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Early Action System Change Fund tackling the root causes of inequality.


The history

In 2011, Renfrewshire Council and the Dartington Service Design Lab, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, embarked upon an innovative system change initiative – Achieving Step Change in Children’s Outcomes. It involved a comprehensive epidemiological survey of children’s well-being. Robust data and best evidence were used to inform the selection of programmes to improve children’s outcomes. Once philanthropic funding for the initiative came to an end, Renfrewshire made the decision to sustain programme delivery using public funds. It provides an exemplar of need-led commissioning, and how philanthropic funds can be used as a catalyst for (lasting) change within public systems.


About the initiative

Fast forward to 2016-17 when Renfrewshire Council commissioned a repeat of Dartington’s ChildrenCount Survey. It captured the well-being of over 85% of children and young people aged 9-16 year in Renfrewshire schools 2016-2017. Two priority challenges emerged that form the focus on the current initiative:


  • Children and young people’s emotional well-being
  • Emotional coercive control within adolescent relationships*


The Early Action System Change Fund means that Dartington Service Design Lab and Renfrewshire Council can respond to these challenges with a new and different system change initiative. This initiative sits at the intersections of systems change, and service design, and will bring together human centered and evidence-based approaches.


What we’ll do

  1. Understand the system dynamics and identify leverage points for change and opportunities for re-investment – system mapping will chart the systems response to, and the cost of, poor emotional health and coercive relationships.
  2. Co-design early action service responses with children, families and communities that are needed, wanted and will likely make a difference. This process will be user-centered and will bring in the best available evidence. The Council will then use resources identified by system modelling to fund early action initiatives.
  3. Implement and rigorously test these initiatives – we’ll use rapid cycle testing techniques to inform adaptations.


How to get involved

There will be numerous opportunities for young people, families and wider communities in Renfrewshire to be involved in the system mapping and service design activities.


This participation will be facilitated by the partnership. Funds will be made available to enable voluntary sector organisations in Renfrewshire to (i) participate in workshops and events (ii) facilitate and build community capacity to participate in the workshops and events and; (iii) help maintain ongoing engagement throughout the process.




If you would like to find out more about the initiative, or wish to get involved please contact:

Kate Tobin, Dartington Project Lead


T: @katetobin_



System Changers will also be appointed to facilitate this process. Contact details will be made available in time.

*Also see Interim Renfrewshire Children’s Services Partnership Plan 2017-18



See Also