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Foundations involved in systems change can increase their odds for success by focusing on the least explicit but most powerful conditions for change, while also turning the lens on themselves.

The Water of Systems Change aims to clarify what it means to shift these conditions. We offer the “inverted triangle” framework as an actionable model for funders and others interested in creating systems change, particularly those who are working to advance equity.

Top Takeaways

  1. Systems change is about advancing equity by shifting the conditions that hold a problem in place.
  2. To fully embrace systems change, funders should be prepared to see how their own ways of thinking and acting must change as well.
  3. Shifts in system conditions are more likely to be sustained when working at three different levels of change: explicit, semi-explicit, and implicit.
Real and equitable progress requires exceptional attention to the detailed and often mundane work of noticing what is invisible to many.