Giving Compass' Take:

• Jeffrey Walker outlines the fundamental elements of achieving successful systems change through philanthropy.

Collaborative efforts are often used to deliver systems change. Who could you partner with to advance systems change? 

• Read more about how systems change offers more than band-aid solutions to benefit society.

It’s one of the perennial questions facing the nonprofit world: Why, despite the sector’s collective resources and best efforts, do so many social problems remain so persistent?

This stubborn gap between intentions and outcomes is drawing increased attention from across the philanthropic community. Many within the sector are coming to a shared conclusion: For too long, nonprofit boards and donors have emphasized the creation and growth of long-life organizations with ever-growing staffs and budgets. Perhaps what we need instead, according to the emerging line of thinking, is an emphasis on what is called “systems change”—on identifying the organizations and individuals already working on a problem, and helping them join forces to achieve their common goals.

What, in other words, are the fundamental elements of successful Systems change?

1. Think in systems. Having a great idea for solving a social problem is just the beginning. You also need to identify the collaborators who can help you translate your innovation into real solutions for the real world.

2. Engage in research and analysis to hone your strategy. Figure out what’s really needed—and what works.

3. Understand that effective communication is the lifeblood of any systems change campaign. Maintain transparent and compelling communications both internally with collaborative partners, and externally with public audiences.

4. Embrace your inner policy wonk—and your inner politico. If you seek to change a complex system, you will often need to change the laws, administrative rules, and official practices governing that system.

5. Measure and evaluate. Then measure and evaluate again. The most successful systems change campaigns create consistent and ongoing data assessments, and rely upon those findings to guide strategy and ensure accountability.

Read the full article about systems change philanthropy by Jeffrey C. Walker at Stanford Social Innovation Review.