Scaling Solutions toward Shifting Systems

Realizing that the world’s pressing challenges are becoming more complex, many philanthropic funders are reflecting on how to create more transformational impact. To help answer that question, the Scaling Solutions toward Shifting Systems initiative was launched in 2016 with representation from the Skoll, Ford and Draper Richards Kaplan Foundations, Porticus, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Our goal is to examine when, how, and why certain solutions achieve system-level shifts and to share the lessons and recommendations from those successes.

NEW: Take our new diagnostic tool here.

The above set of diagnostic considerations should help to clarify the degree to which a funder is systems-oriented in its giving and program planning. For each of these dozen statements, consider whether a given organization’s staff and partners would agree, and how strongly. If the response tends to be “strongly agree”, then the organization has likely embraced a systemic approach. Ambivalence in responses should not be discouraging, however, as seeing opportunities for change is the first step in implementing change.

2021 Skoll World Forum Recording

This recording is from RPA’s 2021 Skoll World Forum event on The Future of Philanthropy: Transformational Impact. The session uses an equity and racial justice lens to examine how to support more systemic impact and draw lessons from funders and organizations that they support. Click here or below to watch the recording.

2020 Findings: Facilitation and Assessment

The newest publication Seeing, Facilitating, and Assessing Systems Change, focuses on how funders can design for and measure progress on systems change. Based on workshops in Kenya, Colombia, India and the United States, case studies, and evolving practices in the field of philanthropy, this publication also provides recommendations for:

  • How to better empower grantees through streamlining, collaboration and increased responsiveness.
  • When, how and with whom to share lessons.
  • The implications of funders exiting systems they have been supporting.
  • Recognizing and working with government and the private sector as partners in systems change efforts.
  • How mapping systems can help funders better develop robust theories of change.

Click below to view the webinar exploring the learnings included in this publication.

Panelists include:
• Aiswarya Ananthapadmanabhan of the Edelgive Foundation (India)
• Kathy Reich of the Ford Foundation
• Maria Claudia Santos Camargo of the Fundación Arturo y Enrica Sesana (Colombia)
• Edwin Ou of the Skoll Foundation
• Georgia Pessoa of Instituto Humanize (Brazil)
• Heather Grady of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (moderator)

2018 Findings: Improving Practices and Embracing Collaboration

Our second phase of research, captured in the publication Approaches for Impact, Approaches for Learning,  sought to identify

  • How and why funders successfully moved from endorsing approaches identified in the first report to actually improving their policies and practices around those approaches; and
  • Key lessons from existing funder collaborative models aimed at systems change.

2017 Findings: S.C.A.L.E.

The initiative’s first report, Scaling Solutions toward Shifting Systems, highlighted organizations that had scaled solutions and how funders had helped or hindered the process. In it, we detail our findings that funders can help grantees scale toward shifting systems by:

  • Streamlining processes for application and reporting;
  • Collaborating more effectively;
  • Accelerating impact through non-monetary support;
  • Learning more about systems change; and
  • Empowering grantees and by intentionally shifting the power dynamics between the givers and receivers of funds.

Featured Case Studies