Unlocking Change Requires a Systems Mindset

By Rose Berg, Chandler Foundation

We began last year with the lowest record of extreme poverty in human history, and now, as COVID-19 exacerbates existing inequalities, it also threatens to push as many as 100 million people into extreme poverty. The pandemic has further exposed weaknesses and inequities in our systems and institutions. Funding has taken on a new urgency – to address the immediate hurt – and a new complexity – to change systems and build (or re-build) weak institutions. Calls for equality and social justice ring loudly, while an entire generation plea for unity in the fight against climate change. 

In the face of such significant, systemic challenges, we at the Chandler Foundation have been engaging in conversations with both donors and doers globally over the past few months about how best to respond. Specifically, those conversations have focused on three fronts: (1) how to change the dynamics of funding for systems change; (2) how greater collaboration and partnerships can help drive systemic change; and (3) how to address systemic issues of governance, including corruption.

While we continue to work on how best to create change, it occurred to me that the answer is buried in “the Why?”

We do this work to help our fellow human beings achieve their potential.  At Chandler Foundation, we believe that talent is widely distributed, but that opportunity is not.  

We must help create the conditions that allow economic and social opportunity for all.  To accomplish these audacious goals, we need a vision for collective action and a systems mindset.  Achieving a just, sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive world simply requires us to proceed in this way.  It will take:

  • Social investors who are willing to co-create and collaborate with unlikely partners – particularly with government and the business sector who play such important roles in most solutions.
  • Social entrepreneurs and social purpose organizations to embrace a systems mindset—even if the approach is not about changing a system, understanding the broader system and one’s role in it will expand awareness and open up new opportunities for collaboration.
  • Storytelling and sharing results—both positive and negative—to enhance learning about and engagement with important social problems and solutions.
  • Embracing new values that have risen from the pandemic-life such as listening, collaboration, flexibility, and holding power to account.  

These likely are some of the values that we should take forward in a post COVID-19 world–not values born of hierarchy or patriarchy.  Because as you’ll hear from the conversations below, those systems have largely failed us.  We need to begin anew.

We invite you to listen and share these important discussions with your networks.

Fighting Corruption to Achieve the SDGs

18 June 2020

The Chandler Foundation was honored to host The World Bank Group, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Open Government Partnership, and Ford Foundation to discuss the explicit link between corruption and the achievement of all SDGs.

Funding Systems Change in Asia: What Can Donors and Doers Learn from Each Other?

11 June 2020

The Chandler Foundation was honored to engage with AVPN members and Dasra, J-PAL, Pratham, and Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation for this pivotal discussion on reaching on our collective goals through funding systems change.

Collaborating to Achieve the SDGs

8 June 2020

Listen to this engaging conversation with leaders from Proximity Designs, Industree Foundation, Ashoka, and Chandler Foundation on why multi-sector collaboration is essential to achieving the SDGs.

Philanthrocapitalism 2.0 is Top-of-Mind at AVPN 2020

2 June 2020

Matthew Bishop, author of Philanthrocapitalism, and former editor of The Economist offers his perspective on the role of philanthropy in advance of the AVPN conference

Governance, Funding and COVID-19. A Call for Transparency & Accountability

26 May 2020

The Chandler Foundation was honored to host Open Society Foundations, Open Contracting Partnership and Oxford University, for this critical discussion at the Catalyst 2030 virtual sessions for COVID-19.

Funding Systems Change: What Can Doers & Donors Learn from Each Other?

1 April 2020

The Chandler Foundation was honored to host more than 350 people at our Skoll World Forum online event.


This article is a cross-post and appeared first at the SDG Philanthropy Platform on 27 June, 2020. You can read the original post here.


Circle Picture (2)



Rose Berg, Advocacy & Communications Director, Chandler Foundation.


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