Effecting systemic change through philanthropic initiatives requires not only a strategy but a well-constructed implementation plan focused on "people, partners, and platforms," a report from consulting firm Arabella Advisors argues.
According to the report, Moving Beyond Theories of Change: A Framework for Strategic Implementation (18 pages, PDF), philanthropic organizations hoping to achieve impact must assess and align the partners, approaches, and organizational commitments needed to successfully implement their strategic plan before they begin to design programs, issue Requests for Proposals, or hire new staff. What's more, any such framework should include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts; partnerships with intermediaries and donor collaboratives; and a focus on "platform-agnostic" philanthropy driven by donors who seek to effect change through a variety of legal structures, including limited liability corporations (LLCs), donor-advised funds, and 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.
The report further notes that aligning "people, partners, and platforms" requires commitment and a strategic allocation of resources — both human and financial — at every level of the organization; that the adoption of a DEI lens inevitably leads to both internal and external changes, from recruitment and retention efforts to community outreach and grantmaking practices; and that the successful implementation of multiple impact strategies — for example, combining grantmaking with impact investing — requires staff to focus on return on investment from both a financial and social perspective.
"Long-term, systemic change requires a deep understanding of the complex logistics of impact — of when and how to move the human, financial, and even intellectual resources needed to accomplish the goal," writes Gwen Walden, the report's author. "It requires not only a strategy but a well-constructed plan for implementing that strategy, one that anticipates the likely necessity of adapting the implementation plan in response to realities on the ground."