Working Paper: Pathways to System Change

Frances Westley, Nino Antadze, Darcy J. Riddell, Kirsten Robinson, & Sean Geobey
April, 2011

Social entrepreneurs and non-for-profit organizations often attempt not only to make a difference on the local level, but also to challenge and possibly alter the overall system that creates the social problems. The pathways for system change that social entrepreneurs adopt are different and depend on the initial conditions, opportunities and barriers, as well as the motivation behind the decision to scale up. The article explores different pathways that social entrepreneurs pursue by studying selected non-for-profit organizations. Using qualitative interview data, we construct five different configurations of key variables: the organization’s theory of change, strength of the organization and the challenges that it faces, the pathway for scaling up that emerges from the identified strength and challenges, and the risks related to this pathway.

Important Notice: This paper is under review by the publisher and should not be cited or posted without permission from the authors.