At this moment of inflection and of reflection, we are called to look forward to the challenges and changes that lie ahead for us as a nation and as a society.

Each of the ground-shaking issues described above is systemic in nature. The COVID-19 virus thrives on “community spread.” Racism is baked into our institutions, our policies, and our economy. Political polarization has eroded trust in our electoral practices and all three branches of our national government.

Systems challenges call for systems responses. The systems imperative extends to all of our institutions: government, business, the non-profit sector — and philanthropy.

And systems responses, counterintuitively, grow from relational roots.

Growing awareness that we live in a world of complex adaptive systems (CAS) — a new and exciting frontier for the sciences and for philanthropy — has underscored the foundational role of relationships. In a world of complexity and uncertainty, we are striving both to dismantle systemic injustice and to build social resilience. As actors within complex adaptive social systems, being intentional about how we engage with each other relationally is a necessity — not a luxury.

Personal relationships lie at the heart and are the drivers of complex adaptive social systems. Relationships are the way that we as humans interact. Moreover, personal relationships determine the quality of resilience that characterizes a system’s capacity to adapt. Relationships in which people can learn about, acknowledge, and harness the contributions of each other enable social systems to tap into their own diversity, which means that information circulates and contributes to system-level learning, growth, and ultimately resilience. Conversely, relationships of exploitation and oppression stymie communication, collaboration, and creativity.

Read the full article about systems-based change from Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) at Medium.