Giving Compass’ Take:
• The author gives advice on the importance of philanthropic organizations using a systems change lens when approaching philanthropy and spurring social change.
• Why isn’t systems change work on the forefront of all organizations? How can donors encourage more organizations to focus on root causes?
• Learn about how evaluating your own organization can support systems change work.
Philanthropic organizations contribute to a better world by supporting a wide variety of important issues, from hunger alleviation to college-readiness to better access to healthcare providers. But are funders supporting these issues in the most effective way that will create the most positive outcome? Will they create change?
Using a systems change lens acknowledges that society’s issues are complex and interconnected, rather than isolated problems. Despite approximately $350 billion being given to one million public charities each year, foundations and the nonprofits they support know that the issues persist.
While different organizations will undoubtedly define systems change differently, it generally requires taking an expanded big picture perspective, and looking at how causes and effects from various components of a system have worked to cause dysfunction and even failure. Rather than acting in isolation and applying topical remedies to urgent issues in a piecemeal way, though well-intentioned, it is worth stepping back and applying resources in a more systemic way, really targeting those root causes.
Foundations can do a variety of things to support systems change work. This can span from devoting one grantmaking program to systems change in one issue area, to orienting the foundation’s mission to systems change and using that lens in all its work, to utilizing a more broad-spanning framework across organizations that provides a point of engagement for more than one funder at once.
Bolder Advocacy of the Alliance for Justice is a valuable resource for foundations interested in knowing what they can do to support advocacy work and quelling any anxieties about moving in that direction. Nonprofit organizations and philanthropic institutions such as foundations can all legally engage in advocacy and policy work.
Read the full article about foundations can make systems change happen by Alyssa Curran at PEAK Grantmaking
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