Systems transformation

Systems transformation has been at the heart of development cooperation for decades. SNV goes beneath the surface to address the root causes of poverty and inequality, at scale.

Contributing to systems transformation requires recognising and understanding the policies, practices, norms, mindsets, and, most importantly, the power structures that underlie the prevailing way of operating in society.

We do so within and across the agri-food, energy, and water sectors by strengthening capacities and catalysing partnerships through integrated rural development, governance, institutional development, local ownership, and market systems development – to name but a few examples.

Our ambition? To deliver food security and adequate nutrition, increased water security, and improved access to affordable and sustainable energy for all.

Six dimensions of systems transformation

We address the structural barriers within systems that limit the freedom of all people to pursue their own sustainable development.

Across all of our work, we ensure that we can measure and articulate our contribution to systems transformation, tracking how our programme and influencing impact positively on the six dimensions of:

  • Policies – government, institutional and organisational rules, regulations, and priorities.

  • Practices – activities of institutions, coalitions, networks.

  • Resource flows – how money, people, knowledge, information, and other assets are distributed and allocated, alongside development of new inclusive markets.

  • Relationships and connections – quality of connections and communications among actors in the system.

  • Power dynamics – the distribution of decision-making power, authority, and influence among individuals and organisations.

  • Social norms, values, behaviours, and attitudes – beliefs, assumptions, and taken-forgranted ways of operating.

Enabling systems that function for all

Systems transformation is a long-term, participatory, and iterative process – and one which can only see success when prevailing ways of operating in society are structurally changed with durability and at a scale beyond the project level.

One example of this is the Inclusive Dairy Enterprise (TIDE) project which transformed the dairy sector in Southwest Uganda between 2015-2019. TIDE contributed to a fundamental shift of dairy farming systems by kickstarting an input market for dairy farmers and creating new finance opportunities for farmers and cooperatives. TIDE also contributed to market development through the establishment of a school milk programme in 1000 schools, which made school milk the ‘new normal’ – an approach which has now been adopted by the government to be replicated across the country. We are also now  leading the second phase of the project – TIDE II, which runs until the end of 2023. 

In Mozambique, the BRILHO project is working to transform the off-grid energy market to improve access and support growth. Since 2020, we have seen companies leverage over EUR 25 million in private sector funding, resulting in over 152,000 Solar Home Systems connections and over 71,000 deployed Improved Cooking Solutions. This, in turn, has benefitted over 1.1 million people across all provinces of the country, and in 2022, 25% of all new electrifications in Mozambique came through businesses supported by BRILHO.

In Bhutan, we played a significant role in supporting the Royal Government of Bhutan to develop the systems and processes for a national approach to transform rural sanitation and hygiene. We supported national and regional consultations on a dedicated sanitation policy, allocating sufficient budgets, and making structural financial resources available. In 2020, the National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy was endorsed and operationalised with national guidelines, strategies, and a roadmap to achieve ODF by 2022. And on 19th November 2022, Bhutan was declared Open Defecation Free with 100% access to improved sanitation.

Systems transformation is not achieved rapidly or easily. But through collaboration and coordination, it will enable us to be more effective across our sectors and our impact will better sustain and scale over time.

Systems transformation news and stories

27/02/2024Press release

BASF and SNV extend collaboration to support smallholder farmers in Ethiopia


Managing Surma River flooding and environmental concerns


Confronting water scarcity in ASAL communities

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