Giving Compass' Take:

• Authors from FSG offer five ways foundations can improve their chances for achieving impact. One way? Involve stakeholders.

• How is a systems change approach different from other ways foundations address issues?

• Want to understand more about systems change? Read about the essential components of this process. 

Over the past few years, we’ve supported a growing number of foundations in adopting a systems change approach to creating social change. These organizations are now thinking about how their grantmaking and other value-added activities can, to use one of our favorite definitions from Social Innovation Generation, “shift the conditions that are holding a problem in place.” This evolution often requires foundations to experiment with tools and practices that are new to their organization.

While evaluation is often conducted as a means to learn about the progress or impact of an initiative, evaluative thinking and continuous learning can be particularly important when working on complex issues in a constantly evolving system. And, when evaluation goes hand in hand with strategy, it helps organizations challenge their assumptions, gather information on the progress, effects, and influence of their work, and see new opportunities for adaptation and change.

Here are 5 ways that evaluating your systems change efforts can improve your odds of achieving impact:

  1. Gain deeper insights into the complex contexts that are holding the problem in place.
  2. Bring stakeholders together to test assumptions, insights, and to engage in collective sensemaking.
  3. See the bigger picture and contextualize your work within the system.
  4. Identify positive and negative unintended consequences and prepare for or respond to a variety of unexpected ripple effects.
  5. Have greater confidence in leveraging resources.

Read the full article about evaluation and systems change by John Kania and Hallie Preskill at FSG.