Philanthropy is in the midst of a significant shift. Over the last several years we’ve seen the rise of new kinds of social impact organizations that are altering the traditional categories of giving and impact investing—a classic sign that perhaps we didn’t have the traditional categories of organizations correct previously.

These organizations recognize that tackling the complex societal issues of the day require a cross-sector perspective and approach. The challenges are too interdependent across a range of systems, organizations and individuals.

As a result, they are breaking down silos to support solutions across nonprofits, business, and government. Among this emerging group of mission-first funders is Strada Education Network, which invests in and brings together a wide array of both nonprofit and for-profit organizations focused on improving pathways between education and employment.

Tom Dawson recently stepped into the role of interim president and CEO at Strada, after serving as the organization’s chief operating officer.

But his experience working in education—and in driving college outcomes—predates his time at Strada. Among many roles, Dawson has served as a senior policy officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S Department of Education.

Dawson joined me to talk about the philosophy behind Strada's strategy and how it is set up to advance social impact.

Michael Horn: Tom, you have had quite a career, with senior roles at the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education. Now you have this opportunity with Strada. What are some of the big shifts that you've seen in education philanthropy over the last couple of decades?

Tom Dawson: When I was first at the Gates Foundation a decade ago, the notion of college completion was really a new idea. Most of the philanthropy, energy, and thought leadership in higher education were focused on college access and affordability. But at Gates, we were starting to provide a lot of grants in areas of college completion, and I remember wondering at the time how long it would take for a “completion agenda” to become more visible and a part of the lexicon. Now there are nationally known organizations like Complete College America solely focused on that work. So many of the organizations we work with are centered on this idea, and states and policymakers are increasingly focused on improving college completion rates. There has definitely been a noticeable shift in a relatively short amount of time.

The role big philanthropies play has also shifted. A decade ago, they were generally skittish about program-related investments. Now, everyone is doing program-related investments. There is this new breed of social impact organizations—Strada is one of them, as are organizations like Emerson Collective—that are pulling multiple levers to solve complex and ingrained problems.

Read the full article about education philanthropy by Michael B. Horn at Forbes.