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In 1999, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment in Indonesia worked with advertisers in Jakarta and international technical advisors to develop the concept of ‘Suami SIAGA’, the ‘Alert Husband’, confronting Indonesian males with their responsibilities to be aware of their wives' needs and ensure early access if needed to trained obstetrics care. The model was rapidly expanded to apply to the ‘Desa SIAGA’, the ‘Alert Village’, with communities assuming the responsibility for awareness of the risks of pregnancy and childbirth, and supporting registered pregnant mothers with funding and transportation for emergency obstetric assistance, and identified blood donors. Based on the participant observation, interviews and documentary analysis, this article uses a systems perspective to trace the evolution of that iconic ‘brand’ as new national and international actors further developed the concept and its application in provincial and national programmes. In 2010, it underwent a further transformation to become ‘Desa Siaga Aktif’, a national programme with responsibilities expanded to include the provision of basic health services at village level, and the surveillance of communicable disease, monitoring of lifestyle activities and disaster preparedness, in addition to the management of obstetric emergencies. By tracking the use of this single ‘brand’, the study provides insights into the complex adaptive system of policy and programme development with its rich interactions between multiple international, national, provincial and sectoral stakeholders, the unpredictable responses to feedback from these actors and their activities and the resultant emergence of new policy elements, new programmes and new levels of operation within the system.