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A Report on the Need for Change in the Social Funding Sector


A Report on the Need for Change in the Social Funding Sector


Odin Muhlenbein shares a report that is the collaborative effort of funders, intermediaries, and systems change leaders who have identified why current practices in the social sector funding community need to evolve to support systems change leaders. 

As we stand on the threshold of an epochal decade, we are confronted with an urgent need

to find, fund, and support transformative solutions at a far greater pace than ever. To that

end, Ashoka and McKinsey invited additional partners to join their annual collaboration to

co-create a shared perspective: Catalyst 2030, Co-Impact, Echoing Green, the Schwab

Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, the Skoll Foundation, and SYSTEMIQ. Together, we

seek to reflect on the sector’s insights to the question: how do we get better at funding and

supporting systems change?


This report is the product of a collaboration between three groups that have mostly

addressed the topic individually: funders and intermediaries in the social sector and the

systems change leaders they aim to support. As a group of publishing partners, we are

united in the conviction that solving the most complex challenges humankind faces today

requires both a systems change approach and collaborative action by all stakeholders.

We further believe that many funders, including those contributing to this report, need to

evolve their funding practices to better support and accelerate the corresponding efforts of

practitioners in collective systems change efforts.


With this report, we aim to reach those in the funding community who want to evolve their

current model to invest in systems change approaches. The ideas we propose are not

absolute truths; rather, they are the first few steps in our own collective journey to learn

about and embrace funding practices that are aligned with systems change. They build on a

broad foundation of existing literature on the concept of systems change and how it can be

supported, as well as the lived experiences of more than 200 individuals who contributed to

this report.


Included in this report:


  • The case for funding systems change
  • Five principles for funding systems change
    • Embrace a systems mindset
    • Support evolving paths to systems change
    • Work in true partnership
    • Prepare for long-term engagement
    • Collaborate with other stakeholders


Download the full report, Embracing Complexity. Towards a Shared Understanding of Funding Systems Change, on the Ashoka website.