Embracing Complexity: Towards a Shared Understanding of Funding Systems Change

This report describes five principles and resulting practices that funders can adopt to better support systems change work. The report distills and validates these principles through a review of the existing literature on funding systems change, more than 60 interviews with funders, intermediaries, and systems change leaders, and a survey of over 110 systems change leaders. The report also offers concrete recommendations for how these five principles can be put into practice.

  • Embrace a systems mindset by being clear about the systems you want to change, incorporating systems change into your DNA, and actively looking for funding opportunities
  • Support evolving paths to systems change by funding systems leaders with transformative visions of improved systems rather than projects, investing in learning and capability building and encouraging collaboration among systems change leaders
  • Work in true partnership by acknowledging and working against power dynamics, providing support that fits systems change leaders’ needs, and being mindful of their limited resources
  • Prepare for long-term engagement by being realistic about the time it takes to achieve systems change, acknowledging that the path of the initiatives will change along the way and encouraging realistic ambitions
  • Collaborate with other stakeholders by aligning with other funders, building networks for systems change leaders, and leaving the leading role to systems change leaders.