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EDGEWORK is IMPOWER's unique approach to understanding and delivering change in complex systems. It is how we deliver sustainable change and better public services.

The EDGEWORK Manifesto

Learn how to deliver sustainable change in complex public services.

EDGEWORK manifesto

Understanding complexity is what makes IMPOWER different. A traditional view is that public services are merely complicated, and that in response to any failure, a root cause can usually be identified leading to the redesign of an under-performing linear process. This will go on to deliver predictable and repeatable improvements. Such traditional thinking has an incredibly strong hold within the public sector and has been reinforced by consultants and their clients. EDGEWORK challenges that view.

The world looks different to us.

We start with the premise that all public services are complex and that they exist within and alongside other complex systems. Responsibility for individual public services – including adult social care, children’s services, healthcare and housing – is distributed across departmental and organisational boundaries. No single person can ever take full control. What’s more, people are the key drivers of complexity, whether as departmental directors, service users, social workers, budget managers, carers or volunteers.

Given this lack of centralised control, complexity theory explains an awful lot about why things are as they are, why things go wrong and how to think about the challenges faced in public services. Applying complicated solutions in complex systems does not work in the long run.

Complicated problems require a complicated solution.

To get to the moon, you need to build a rocket. A rocket is complicated: it requires a team of highly skilled experts, hard work and creative thinking to define and solve the problem. But once designed, you can create a blueprint that someone else can follow and they should get the same result every time. You can work on the problem separate from its environment; the problem is contained.

Complex problems require EDGEWORK.

Successfully raising a child is a complex challenge: siblings brought up in the same household with equal access to resources still make different choices and are not carbon copies of one another. By definition, complex problems cannot be solved but they can be systematically managed. Approaches which worked elsewhere may not work in any given complex situation and unless the challenge is addressed holistically, failure is likely. The problem is not contained – it is distributed across many actors and cannot be separated from its environment.

Understanding and delivering change in complex systems requires a different mindset, an ability to work with people – not just datasets – and unique methods and tools.

We call our approach ‘EDGEWORK’ as we believe that the hardest and most important work is done at the edges – the boundaries between systems, the front line – and because we are constantly pushing the limits of existing thinking.

EDGEWORK is more than just understanding or explaining complexity. It is a practical response to it. EDGEWORK enables us and our clients to move beyond the conventional ways of seeing a problem. Using EDGEWORK, we have changed behaviours, shaped public demand and improved outcomes while reducing costs.


Further reading


The EDGEWORK® Manifesto

How to deliver sustainable change in complex public services.

The EDGEWORK Manifesto: How to deliver sustainable change in complex public services

We hope that our new book starts a conversation about why smart, dedicated and experienced public sector leaders find it difficult to make measurable and sustainable improvements

October 21, 2019

EDGEWORK Series: Primed Performance Management

Develop staff skills, confidence and behaviours to exploit fully the power of performance data

April 11, 2019

EDGEWORK Series: Trajectory Management in Adult Social Care

Delivering and evidencing better outcomes and financial savings

August 9, 2018

System Boundaries

EDGEWORK redefines the edges of systems.

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Get in touch if you’d like to discuss the challenges your organisation is facing.

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