Giving Compass' Take:

•  Rose Anderson, writing for NPC, explores conversations from NPC Ignites 2019, focusing on three barriers to systems change and how to inspire solutions for these challenges. 

• What do you think is the largest barrier for philanthropists to pursue and support systems change work? How would you define systems change? 

•  Learn about the roots of philanthropic systems change. 

The term ‘systems change’ is attracting more and more attention, and for good reason. People across the social sector are recognising the importance of systems thinking to address the root causes of social problems and to achieve long-term, lasting change. Yet those attempting to make systems change a reality may have their efforts blocked by various obstacles. What does it all mean for the people on the frontline who are trying to ‘do’ systems change?

At NPC Ignites 2019, we had conversations with charities and funders around what barriers they faced when ‘doing’ systems change and how they might overcome them. Here are three problems people have said can stop systems change from happening:

The phrase ‘systems change’ can feel like a somewhat nebulous concept to frontline staff, especially when there is higher-level disagreement over what counts as a ‘system’ and what the boundaries of systems change are. A good starting point is asking yourself, what’s within your power and your ability to change?

People don’t feel systems change is possible

Even after gaining knowledge of what systems change actually is, frontline charity workers face a stumbling block—or rather, two closely-related stumbling blocks. The first is the belief that systems change isn’t possible. A key reason for this belief is people lacking confidence—being big on skills but (seemingly) small on support.

Getting started with systems change is challenging 

Systems change requires time, space and energy, but not everyone feels they have enough of it to do the work.

Workers might need to reframe how they see their time, and charities should perhaps create new systems change opportunities that match people’s appetites—effectively making time and space. Such a solution is multi-layered, considering both internal attitude and external possibilities.

Read the full article about barriers to systems change by Rose Anderson at NPC.