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Stanford Social Innovation Review | April 2017

Foundations in the United States have increasingly turned from siloed giving in their grantmaking to embrace systems thinking. With the United States government pulling back on many social safety nets, philanthropy has become an essential stopgap, and the idea of interconnectivity has become more essential than ever. FSG Managing Director Mark Kramer interviewed the leaders of nearly 2 dozen foundations to understand how these donors  hope to achieve their social change goals through systems thinking.

Top Takeaways

  1. Funders will continue to work with the nonprofit sector, but will also consider how for-profit companies and government programs intersect with their efforts.
  2. Systems change foundations listen more deeply to the communities in which they work, empowering others rather than imposing solutions.
  3. Foundations can serve as intermediaries between influential leaders across party lines and different sectors.
It was very clear to us that if you didn’t understand the ecosystem in which the problem sits, including the government incentives and policies and market-based forces, then our interventions wouldn’t be sustainable.

Dr. Judith Rodin, former president of The Rockefeller Foundation