Giving Compass' Take:

· Writing for PhilanTopic, Srikanth Gopal explains the three shifts in philanthropy that are needed to better design and evaluate social change: turning projects to systems, results to hypotheses, and planning to learning.

· How will these shifts help philanthropic work become more meaningful and efficient? How can organizations begin to work on these shifts and challenges themselves? 

· Check out this framework for impactful philanthropy from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Good strategy-making and evaluation sit at the heart of philanthropy. Yet as a sector, we continue to struggle with how to design strategies, how to understand our impact, and how to use that understanding to drive stronger strategies. While we've made progress in using theories of change, logic models, indicators, and various types of evaluations in our work, we are often still stuck in more traditional, linear paradigms of thinking that do not lend themselves to the complex, ever-changing contexts in which we work.

I believe there are three key shifts that philanthropy needs to make to more fully embrace a complexity-friendly approach to designing and evaluating social change:

  1. Projects → Systems
  2. Results → Hypotheses
  3. Planning → Learning

From Projects to Systems: Most foundation staff tend to think of their work in terms of programs, projects, or even specific grants. There is value in opening up the aperture and examining the whole system, with all its interconnected components.

From Results to Hypotheses: While results matter greatly, we often spend inordinate time and effort on them and not enough on articulating and clarifying the hypotheses and assumptions that undergird our thinking.

From Planning to Learning: Most of us that came to philanthropy in the last two or three decades were indoctrinated into a traditional form of "strategic planning" that takes several months to complete and involves a process that proceeds from vision and mission to goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. I believe that is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Read the full article about these three shifts needed in philanthropy by Srikanth Gopal at PhilanTopic.