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System Change in Philanthropy New free resource launched

A must-read resource for the philanthropy sector – developed with the input of organisations around the globe – has been launched and is now available free online.

The report “Philanthropy, Systems & Change” brings together stories and tools from philanthropists, academics and practitioners based in Australia, the United States, Canada, Germany and UK.

Authored by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation and supported by Perpetual, the Paul Ramsay Foundation and Dusseldorp Forum, the strongest message in the report is the need for foundations to work on themselves to maximise their impact in systems.

“In our conversations, we heard that the most common reason for philanthropy to explore working at a systems level was a dissatisfaction with the impacts of existing granting strategies,” Australian Centre for Social Innovation CEO Carolyn Curtis said.

“When we refer to ‘systems’ we mean for example systems of local economic development, systems of education, systems promoting the arts or systems of substance use. The Foundations we spoke with had an ambition to achieve greater impact and to make better use of the unique flexibility of philanthropy,” she said.

“This resource can help cut through some of the complexity of ‘systems change’ and provide funders with the tools to reflect on their role, informed by some of the leading thinking and practice from across the world. Change in these systems could include changing policy, practices, relationships, power dynamics and more,” Curtis said.

The publication includes downloadable ‘conversation tools’ and excerpts of interviews conducted with practitioners. Whilst the work is centred around philanthropy, the resource is useful for any organisation working in social innovation including government agencies.

The concept for the report was kickstarted at a global funders retreat hosted by The Fay Fuller Foundation in South Australia. Designed, convened and facilitated by the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), twenty foundations from across the globe explored the challenges, opportunities and lessons learned on their journeys towards more system-aware ways of working.

“While there is a sense some philanthropic organisations are stable and committed in their primary role as funders, others are starting to assume additional roles to support change in systems,” Carolyn Curtis said. “What’s become clear is philanthropy can play a variety of functions.”

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