case studies

case studies

our stories of change

Mapping the systems that influence early childhood development outcomes

The Early Years Catalyst is an ambitious, long-term systems change initiative that emerged from the2020 National Early Years Summit. They are a collective of leaders and organisations focused on children and families working to foster a national, system-wide, collaborative approach to improving early childhood development outcomes.

In late 2021, the Early Years Catalyst partnered with Orange Compass to undertake a major systems mapping process, designed to identify the root causes and deep systemic forces influencing early childhood development outcomes and possible leverage points for change.

The Orange Compass team undertook this systems mapping process from August 2021 to May 2022. The goal was to surface participant experiences of the complex interplay of underlying patterns, structures and mental models that are maintaining unacceptably high levels of disadvantage in the early years.

We were privileged to hear from over 300 people from across Australia (rural, remote and urban areas) about their experience with our current early childhood development systems, and their wishes for what desired systems of the future might look like if they supported significantly more children in Australia to thrive. These insights were complemented by a rapid review and analysis of published position papers and deep dives into prevailing societal and economic ideologies.

The final report is now available: ‘Mapping the systems that influence early childhood development outcomes’. Interactive current and future state systems maps are also available here. We encourage you to explore this work and consider the implications for your own organisations, networks and collaborative initiatives.

The Northern Woods Summit, Well-being Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations hub

The world we live in has been shaped by human ideas and beliefs. Deeply held convictions and unconscious assumptions underpin the dominant way of life. The same is true of our economy. It is one that has been built on thousands of years of cultural and financial evolution anchored in the western world’s ways of thinking. Over the past century, the model that currently drives the economy has become ever more focused on productivity and efficiency as goals instead of means. Entrenched myths and metaphors reinforce a desire for endless development and material growth. Unquestioned narratives underpin our economy and our current destructive trajectories.

In the Northern Woods Summit 2022 Edition (April-June 2022), we worked with the David Suzuki Foundation to put storytelling and beliefs at the heart of our discussions of the economy – some of the very things that have been devalued in the past. We designed this ‘imagination lab’ with the belief that it is stories that shape how we think, and it is through stories that we will change how we act and bring others on this journey alongside us. Our goal was to challenge the thinking that upholds the belief in the current economic system, in order to forge new pathways towards wellbeing economies.  

Working with co-facilitator Melanie Goodchild, the Orange Compass team (Fiona McKenzie, Megan Seneque, Eve Millar and Natalie Staggard) was awed by the quality of conversation and ideas that participants brought to the table. Through a series of virtual workshops, participants were able to dive deeply in to the worlds inside their minds - to surface and challenge dominant myths, rediscover and spotlight alternative ways of knowing, and imagine new narratives. They called for a transformation in our dominant economic ‘operating system’ and embraced the task of imagining and creating the new paradigm, not just deconstructing the old.

More information on the outcomes from this process are available at the WEAllCan website.

Co-creating the Wellbeing EconomY Alliance - Canada hub - David Suzuki Foundation

WEAll is a new global collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements and individuals working together to change the economic system to create a wellbeing economy - one who’s core purpose is to generate well-being for people and planet.

The WEAll global alliance is in the process of enabling the establishment of regional and national hubs to accelerate economic transformations based on more local context and realities.

With the goal of creating a hub in Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance convened a diverse group of thought and action leaders to take part in a unique co-creative experience. Framed as a design lab, a series of virtual dialogues in October and November 2020 was held to enable participants to explore 1) the paradigm shift required to transform Canada’s economic system and 2) the action-enhancing architecture that would support the emergence of a new economic purpose.

Orange Compass (Megan Seneque and Fiona McKenzie) were the Co-Facilitators and designers of the lab, with each session tailored to enable participants to build their capability in the thinking and doing of systems transformation. These sessions were the first steps in the co-creation of a powerful new hub and part of the ongoing emergence of a new economic system for Canada and Canadians.

Jurisdictional Dialogue in West Kalimantan, Indonesia - UNDP Green Commodities Programme

Through September and October 2020, Orange Compass (Fiona McKenzie) led the design of a Jurisdictional Dialogue in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The Dialogue was supported by the UNDP Green Commodities Programme, The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and Bappeda (Indonesian Department for Regional Planning and Devleopment).

A structured virtual process over 6 weeks, the Jurisdictional Dialogue sought to generate greater collaboration between diverse initiatives and actors in the province of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. During the Dialogue, participants strengthened their skills in systems thinking and explored opportunities for lasting, systemic and sector-wide change for greater sustainability and reduced deforestation across a range of agricultural commodities.

Fiona led this work with the guidance and support of a very capable local UNDP Indonesia team (Rini Indrayanti, Yuliana Suliyanti, Andreas Budi Rahutomo, Syamsul Rusdi, Danang Aditya Nizar, and Mariana Sidabutar), as well as collective impact and facilitation specialist, Gita Syahrani. Gita is the Head of Secretariat for Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari (LTKL), a multistakeholder, multi-district collaboration working towards sustainable land-use across Indonesia. A final session saw learnings shared between participants in Indonesia and participants of a similar dialogue running concurrently in Colombia.

Festival of Change

The Dusseldorp Forum is an independent foundation focused on improving education, health and social outcomes for children, their families and communities across Australia. They provide funding and support to initiatives demonstrating positive, long-term change for young people. A key part of Dusseldorp Forum’s strategy is to connect diverse individuals and organisations across sectors to foster collaborative relationships and collective actions to generate more coordinated strategic effort and structural reform. One of the ways this is explored is through an annual event that brings together change-makers from across Australia to share what they are learning and grow together - The Festival of Change. The Festival centres around four lighthouse initiatives from Bourke NSW, Doveton VIC, Logan QLD and Kabulwarnamyo NT. Convened and supported by Dusseldorp Forum, these groups come together to distil what works and why, share evidence and resources, and build a greater collective voice to advocate for the system changes required to shift long-term outcomes for vulnerable children and communities. Fiona McKenzie has worked with the Dusseldorp Forum since 2017 to codesign the Festival with participants and to lead facilitation. 

The 2019 Festival of Change took us north to gather amidst the unique beauty of the Warddewardde (Stone Country) and to learn about the strong culture and connection to country of the local clans (the Mok clan and others). The theme for 2019 was ‘Journeys through time and place’ – capturing personal and organisational journeys over the past 12 months, as well as timelessness of the Nawarddeken connection to culture and land. Being on country in a thriving community who have reignited their traditions and are growing the next generation of cultural leaders was amazing – and a time of deep reflection plus a few tears. 2019 reflected a shift from the 2018 focus on collective advocacy and widening the circle, back to a smaller, more intimate gathering where lighthouse initiatives could learn from each other and forge stronger connections. The Festival sought to generate a deeper understanding of the Nawarddeken’s strong culture culture and land. Participants were encouraged to embrace the different mindsets, belief systems and ways of seeing the world as an opportunity for personal growth. The facilitation was flexible and semi-structured in order to create an atmosphere where participants were able to relax, learn, and have moments of transformation and insight as they experienced a fundamentally different way of living and being of the Nawarddeken People. 

You can learn more about the shared wisdom of these initiatives in a collective narrative called Our Way - A Social Change Movement. Our Way outlines the challenge of persistent, locational disadvantage in Australia and the social change movement to address it. It shares the collective principles of the movement and the significant results that have been achieved at this early stage. Most importantly it highlights what’s required to sustain this important and exciting work, so that more children and families throughout Australia have the conditions to thrive. The lighthouses have also developed case studies that communicate their individual, ground-breaking work and how they are achieving change. To learn more about the Festival of Change, please visit:

What it means to walk alongside: a unique government, philanthropy and community partnership

Our Place is a unique cross-sector collaboration between education, early learning, health and adult education systems, underpinned by a partnership with the Victorian Government and the Colman Foundation. Since its early origins at Doveton in 2012, Our Place has expanded to ten schools across Victoria with more in the pipeline.  An alliance of five philanthropic organisations are now working together to provide flexible and long-term support for the Our Place vision: Colman Foundation; Dusseldorp Forum; Paul Ramsay Foundation; Ray & Margaret Wilson Foundation; and William Buckland Foundation.

Our Place works with one of the most important community resources, schools, to expand the whole-life opportunities open to children and families in highly disadvantaged communities. They bring together the resources children and families need to thrive in ways that meet the needs and help fulfil the aspirations of the community. Our Place has the primary goal of making a difference to the educational outcomes for children and families in communities experiencing disadvantage. The Our Place approach has been designed to achieve this by focusing on more than the classroom. The focus is on changing the overall environment for children and families. It has been built on the recognition that families must to be able to meet children and young people’s health, developmental and wellbeing needs, and that those closest to the child (especially parents) must value education and role model learning in ways that support aspirations and realise opportunities. Our Place also recognises that, in communities experiencing disadvantage, there are many things that families need in order to step through the door and make the most of the opportunities available. 

Better understanding the journey and the evolution of the partnership underpinning Our Place will help to inform ongoing implementation and impact. To this end, research has been undertaken to document Our Place as a case study of what it means for government, philanthropy and community to truly walk alongside each other as it scales from one site to several. This research was led by the Our Place team in collaboration with Fiona McKenzie and Megan Seneque from Orange Compass. The final report is now available. Orange Compass is also working with Our Place in 2020 to further document and synthesise the approach and lessons learnt from this innovative and systems changing initaitive. For more information, please visit:

ICARE: Breakthroughs that make a real difference

Orange Compass has been proud to be work with the NSW Government's icare foundation on its WorkUp initiative. WorkUp was specifically designed to partner with organisations to help injured workers across NSW. We worked with the icare foundation to identify key challenges around maintaining or returning to work after a workplace injury and then design a tailored investment process that includes codesign and coaching for applicants. The process was purposefully collaborative, innovative and a pathway to trusted relationships with new partners. A key element is codesign where, together, partners will co-create new solutions to help those who need them the most get back up and participate in work, and more essentially, their community. WorkUp was based on a recognition that prolonged unemployment during the productive years of life impacts on the quality of life of affected individuals and their families. It acknowledged that, in some cases, a return to life is required before a return to work.

icare received a fantastic response to the public WorkUp investment call in June 2018, with more than 90 not-for-profit, business, academic and government organisations applying. 13 teams were selected for the six week codesign phase, which ran from August-September. Three full-day co-design workshops were facilitated by Orange Compass and icare in collaboration with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation and Clear Horizon. Eight teams were selected with a total $5 million invested in solutions for impact. 

Since WorkUp, Orange Compass has worked with the foundation on further innovation investments. This includes the Quality of Life fund, focused on restoring hope and fostering connections, engagement and purpose for participants in icare’s Lifetime Care who have been seriously injured. This fund resulted in $3 million being invested in four partner organisations. More recently Orange Compass helped design the $3 million Injury Prevention in Construction investment call, with the foundation supporting innovations that result in positive, healthy workplace cultures and systems that address the root causes of accidents and injury in construction. Orange Compass continues to support the icare foundation in 2020 in its mission to increase injury prevention and improve wellbeing outcomes for injured workers, road users, their families and carers.


The purpose of the Waste Not project was to identify if and how it would be possible to intervene in the Australian waste system .(broadly defined) in order to significantly reduce waste volumes for improved environmental, social and economic wellbeing. The project is being led by the Australian Futures Project and is funded by the Gourlay Charitable Trust. To create a common understanding of the challenge, Orange Compass was contracted by the Australian Futures Project to conduct a rapid assessment of the Australian waste system to draw out underlying structures, processes, incentives and drivers.

Through interviews with experts and a review of case studies and literature, it was found that the Australian waste system is stuck in its current state due to a number of factors. Or particular importance are mental models and the deep need for changing mindsets, reimagining the language of waste, and shifting the focus from recycling the reuse. Ideally a paradigm shift to a circular economy would also help to change what and how we measure value. There is also great scope to rethink the structures and processes that govern waste systems and the need to unlock new patterns of behaviour. This goes beyond the waste industry itself and must involve entire supply changes particularly where product stewardship and design rules could make a massive difference.

Informed by the findings of the assessment, the Australian Futures Project convened a workshop of key stakeholders and partners to explore promising interventions in late 2018. Further action was scoped out with potential supporters, partners and stakeholders. To learn more, please go to 

A Wayfinder’s Guide to Systems Transformation

On 30-31 August 2017 in London, 14 participants from around the world met to explore the question of ‘how might we approach transformational change for complex challenges in the future?’  The workshop was convened and co-facilitated by Fiona McKenzie (Director, Orange Compass) and Megan Seneque (Associate, Orange Compass). Participants included a mix of practitioners and academics in systems and design thinking, innovation, and the social and physical sciences. They represented a diversity of sectors, disciplines, and geographies. Participants were:

  • Dr Yannick Beaudoin, Chief Scientist, GRID-Arendal
  • Julie Birtles, ‎Founder, Beyond Excellence
  • Paul Chatterton, Founder and lead, WWF Landscape Finance Lab
  • Sarah Gillinson, Chief Executive, Innovation Unit
  • Sandy Killick, Managing Director, Focused Facilitation
  • Dr Adrienne Mannov, Social Anthropologist, World Maritime University
  • Dr Fiona McKenzie, Co-Founder & Director of Strategy, Australian Futures Project
  • Julie Munk, Network & Project Manager, Social Innovation Exchange
  • Alex Roberts, Innovation Specialist, Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, OECD
  • Valmae Rose, Director, Future By Design Australia
  • Megan Seneque, International Development Advisor, Co-Facilitator, WE-Africa Lab
  • Dr Andrea Siodmok, Head of the Policy Lab; Deputy Director, (UK) Cabinet Office
  • Dr Katherine Trebeck, Global Research Policy Advisor, Oxfam
  • Dieter Van den Broeck, Landscape orchestrator and science/education, Commonland

Participants shared a common commitment to achieving genuine systems transformation and, cumulatively, possessed a wealth of experience in empowering such change - and change makers - in complex contexts.  With this spirit, the workshop involved two days of discussions that featured case studies of participant projects, reflections on lessons learnt, and insights into approaches for creating transformational change.  Despite the diversity of their work, participants found they had common experiences of the joys and frustrations of systems change. They had all been through times of professional loneliness and impatience, times of the exhilaration witnessing a ‘window open’ or minds changed, and we all shared the sense that this work is vital if the future is going to be one of human and ecological wellbeing. The discussion was captured in the publication A wayfinder’s guide to systems transformation: 18 insights for catalysts and convenors. The workshop has also led to a series of new collaborations amongst several of the organisations represented. It also planted the seed about the importance of a new type of navigation for complex systems, out of which the organisation Orange Compass emerged.