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Leveraging Grant-Making—Part 2: Aligning Programmatic Approaches With Complex System Dynamics

The purpose of this two-part article is to enable foundations to increase the leverage of their grantmaking resources by working effectively with the dynamics of complex social systems. This article examines how foundations can align planning, implementation, and evaluation efforts with the behavior of the social systems they seek to improve. Asking powerful questions of staff, board, grantees, and other stakeholders helps to transform how they think about their goals and strategies. In addition to using the power of questioning, foundations function more systemically by suspending their assumptions about their effectiveness and what is possible, creating the cultural shifts needed, Read more





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Leveraging Grantmaking: Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Social Systems

The nonobvious interrelationships among elements in a complex system often thwart people’s best intentions to sustainably improve system performance. The complex, nonlinear problems that most foundations address can be solved most effectively by thinking systemically instead of linearly about these problems. Systems thinking offers a range of analytic tools to improve our capacity to think systemically, including ways to distinguish problem symptoms from root causes, reinforcing and balancing feedback, system archetypes, mental models, and system purpose and goals. Applying these tools enables us to target high leverage interventions that can lead to sustainable, system-wide improvement. These tools can be applied Read more