Resourcing Systems Innovation

Interventions report

November 2022

System innovation initiative. The Four Keys: Resources


In Building Better Systems, we introduced four keys to unlock system innovation: purpose and power, relationships and resource flows.


These four keys make up a set. Systems are often hard to change because power, relationships and resource flows are locked together in a reinforcing pattern to serve the system’s current purpose. Systems start to change fundamentally when this pattern is remade so that a new configuration can emerge, serving a new purpose.


In this essay series we delve deeper into these four keys and provide practical advice on how they can be put to use. This essay is about how making new, different and better systems means creating more productive, sustainable flows of resources.


The character of economic and social systems are shaped by the resources that are critical to it, whether that is land in agrarian feudalism; factory labour and machines in early capitalism; oil, and to a lesser extent gas, in the era of mass mobility and consumerism; knowledge, information and intangible assets such as brands in the early 21st century economy; or the role of renewables and decarbonisation in the green economy towards which societies are trying to move.


The nature of the system takes its cue from the kinds of resources that are critical to it, whether they are found fixed in the ground and extracted from it, or created fluidly in culture and grow through innovation. Different kinds of resources – whether they are extracted or created – lend themselves to different kinds of systems.

Related publications


Interventions report

Building Better Systems


More about the initiative


System Innovation