Systemic and Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable transformation requires systemic engagement and structural change. Rather than a quick fix or short‐term programs focused on immediate needs, sustainable transformation is the long ‐term improvement in community life — social, structural, and systemic changes that last.

It often takes a generation to achieve and evaluate, and requires a long‐term commitment, investment, and involvement in the life of the community.

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Description: Systems‐thinking and systemic change are important concepts in the work of Shalom because all communities are deeply involved in, and affected by power‐filled systems.

Power networks are found in all aspects of community life such as school, church, government, and business. Shalom teams identify the systems that influence their communities.

They support and strengthen systems that build and sustain their communities, and work to transform detrimental systems.

Moving from charity to systemic change requires new ways of thinking about communities and the underlying causes of poverty. Systems‐thinking means understanding how things influence each other.

clothesFor example, if I don’t have a job, I don’t earn money. If I don’t earn money, I can’t buy food. If my children don’t have sufficient food, they suffer malnutrition. If they suffer malnutrition, they can’t study well. If they can’t study well, they won’t graduate.If they don’t graduate, they probably won’t get a job. If they don’t have jobs, they don’t earn money, and the circle continues.

Communities of Shalom seek not only to meet the immediate need to feed the hungry child, but also to look at the complexity of events and systems that lead to this child being hungry. Then they take action to change the systems.


Scriptural Examples: St. Paul writes: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Our struggle for peace and justice is not against individuals, but against systems of power and domination in ‘high places’ that must be identified, engaged, and fought against as needed, if we are to see sustainable change and transformation in our lifetime.


Living Examples: in 2006, through the efforts of the Living Wage Coalition — community, labor, academic, policy, and faith‐based organizations — the City Council in Memphis, TN, passed a living wage ordinance that requires the City of Memphis to contract only with businesses that pay living wages, a rate at which a family can meet basic needs.


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