Giving Compass' Take:

• In this Medium post, Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht examines the scale of poverty in the U.S. and the racial inequities we face, urging that funders must go beyond one-off projects to more profound systems change.

• Do we have the capacity to answer this call? It will require more precise strategies and comprehensive collaboration across many different sectors.

• Here's a guide on how to navigate the water of systems change.

The scope of the collective work to date has not met the scale and complexity of the challenges that we face as a nation. Poverty is no longer limited to specific disadvantaged subsections of cities. Issues once thought unique to isolated geographies, such as underperforming schools and underemployment, are now nearly ubiquitous. In most cities today, for example, we do not need to fix the elementary school in only one neighborhood; we need to fix most of the elementary, middle, and high schools in a school system ...

For almost all indicators of well-being across the country, racial disparities are profound. Despite decades of well-intentioned work, the social change sector has not made the needed progress toward closing these gaps. Creating lasting change will require us to work with eyes wide open to the ways that our efforts directly combat  —  or else tacitly allow  —  widening racial disparities.

The systems that impact overall life outcomes  —  affordable housing, geographic mobility, education, workforce development, and more  —  are deeply interrelated and mutually reinforcing. No one individual, organization, institution, or even sector can singlehandedly implement the kind of change needed to fundamentally solve today’s complex problems. Achieving better results demands that we recognize and harness the prevailing forces of opportunity, geography, connectivity, and systems innovation.

We must move beyond the transactional approach used by many funders  —  one-off programs or siloed interventions  —  and invest in transformational systems change with the principles of racial equity and cross-sector collaboration coded into their DNA.

Read the full article about investing in transformative systems change by Ben Hecht at