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We support initiatives that target the root causes of complex problems. Our Systems Change Accelerator grants invest in collaborative problem solving that is different than business as usual, shifting resources, structures and mindsets for lasting change.

We must make lasting progress on the complex problems that hold our community back, like hunger, homelessness and climate change. This requires us to work differently, investigating the roots of complex problems that are found in the context, or system, around them. We are here to help you learn about and catalyze Systems Change - find additional resources here.

 

WHAT WE FUND

We support innovations that target root causes of complex community problems leading to a more fair, thriving and resilient region. These grants support systems change strategies that restructure how things work and aim to change policies, practices, relationships, resource flows, relationships, power and mental models so that fewer and fewer people or environments ever experience a problem. We do not limit funding to specific issue areas and will consider any that, if addressed, will lead to a more fair, thriving, and resilient region for all.

Powerful strategies will involve a constellation of actions: multiple, complementary actions carried out by stakeholders throughout the system. They will create greater equity in a system by considering who experiences the problem most severely and designing actions that intentionally target the roots of those inequities. Our strategy is informed by FSG's Systems Change conditions and MSU's ABLe Change Framework.

The actions that will change a system are unique to the particular context of that system. Some actions that have been funded in previous years: 

  • Convening of cross-sector networks that are working together to share information and best practices, align work more effectively, experiment with new innovations and learn 

  • Advocacy work to increase public or legislative support  

  • Communication work to change public narratives about a problem or solution 

  • Stipends to compensate stakeholders experiencing a problem to participate in creating solutions  

  • Creating new standards for data collection, sharing and use between organizations 


 

GRANT CRITERIA

We evaluate every grant application using our Guiding Principles as a lens.  Review our criteria in more detail here before applying.

 


Are you ready to catalyze systems change?

Systems Change is driven by intentional, inclusive problem solving processes that are different from business as usual. This grant is available to initiatives that have done significant groundwork together before applying:

  • Built a team of diverse stakeholders that have worked together to see the complex problem from many angles and perspectives

  • Able to describe the current status of the problem, how many are experiencing it or are affected by it, the "status quo" approach to the problem, and why the timing is right for change

  • Identified and prioritized leverage points for change

  • Designed a constellation of actions that will impact those leverage points to change the system that is creating the problem

  • Established partnership agreements with organizations that will implement your constellation of actions, leveraging each party’s unique assets 

  • Created structures to stay connected with others working in the targeted system who are not directly involved in the current initiative

Getting ready

We support the convening, engaging, investigating and planning activities that will prepare you for a Systems Change Accelerator initiative.

  • Seed Grants provide funding to support your preparatory work.

  • Learning about new ways to approach complex problems can be funded through our Changemaker Fellowship.

  • Use and build on the toolkit for systems change.

  • While developing an understanding of the targeted system and identifying leverage points for change with partners is required for applicants - your process is your choice. We partner with +Acumen and The Omidyar Group to offer the Systems Practice Course, now available as you are ready to enter into this work with your stakeholder group, with the support of a local consultant. Applying Systems Thinking and Common Archetypes is another course available online that could support your preparatory work. Neither course is a pre-requisite for this grant.

  • We offer learning experiences throughout the year to bring changemakers together for shared learning and relationship building around systems change work. Take a look at our Events Calendar.


LEARNING: A SHARED COMMITMENT

The systems change approach to social change is relatively new. Not many funders and changemakers are organizing their work in this way. We have a lot to learn in this area and we are committed to learning alongside our grantees. We ask that applicants demonstrate a commitment to learning by designating a Learning Steward from your team and budgeting for their time (grant funds and/or match may be used for this person’s time). You are encouraged to designate a Learning Steward from an organization that is not the primary fiscal agent for this proposal.

 

Your Learning Steward will:
  • Join a Systems Change Community of Practice with other grantees that meets quarterly (other team members are welcome as well, but not required). The Community of Practice is a facilitated group focused on learning and co-designed around the needs of the cohort.  

  • Work with Rotary Charities staff and consultants to create processes custom to your team that will help you collect information and stories that will document your team’s unique learning journey, and help us all notice early signals of a changing system together.  

  • Capture and share your team’s unique learning journey. 

 

We will:
  • Provide facilitation for the Community of Practice that will create a brave space to share and explore successes and challenges. 

  • Work with Learning Stewards to articulate processes that will help document each team’s learning. 

  • Amplify each team’s story (with permission) through our communications channels. We hope to help inspire others, build the body of knowledge around this type of work, and attract more resources.