Over the years, we’ve seen homelessness philanthropies shift from funding mostly shelters and programs to funding systems-level work. We’ve helped our member funders think through systems change by challenging them to center racial equity when answering these four key questions:

  1. Why does homelessness persist, even though we have the best intentions to end it?
  2. How do we, as an organisation, inadvertently contribute to the problem?
  3. What are the leverage points that produce sustainable, system-wide results?
  4. How can each of us motivate others to implement, even if doing so is against their self-interests?

Philanthropy can provide leadership by supporting action at the community level. Systems change that addresses a chronic, complex problems at the community level involves four stages:

  • Identifying and engaging key stakeholders. Funders have a remarkable ability to bring together diverse stakeholders.
  • Developing a shared understanding of why the problem persists and creating a shared vision for the future. Philanthropy can support systems mapping with a racial equity lens. This is an effective way to expand the understanding of homelessness in communities, and ultimately lead to a place where stakeholders can agree on a creating and implementing a shared vision for the future.
  • Testing for a commitment to change. In order for change to naturally occur, people must fight the urge to maintain the status quo.
  • Bridging the gap between the vision and current reality. Successful systems change leaders have the courage to stay the course on a plan that might produce short-term pain for long-term gain. At the same time, they need to try to ensure sufficient short-term results to build momentum. This vision cannot be fully realised unless the current reality of structural and racial inequities are addressed.

Read the full article about systems change by Amanda Misiko, Lauren Bennett, Stephanie Chan, and Martha Toll at NPC.