Co-creating the Way: Funding Systems Change

Elena  0:00  

So more questions, of course, coming from our audience. Thank you so much for sending such interesting questions. It’s very tough to make a choice. But I think we are interested in looking also at the perspective of how to fund the systems change approaches, those that work, of course, and so, there is a question coming to us saying that donors seem hesitant to find actors, community based organizations, that are directly involved in systems change work. And do you see this kind of paradigm shifting? Do you see this changing? Maybe from a foundation perspective, Sybil, do you have something to comment on this? And I mind you before I just remind the audience that we are also welcoming contributions  if you want to step in, so please don’t be shy. Feel free to also bring your perspective to the conversation so Sybil, over to you, please.

Sybil  0:58  

I think this is an interesting Question because, you know, we all come from different facets, we all come with various approaches. We all may come with the notion that the approach that we are pursuing is the right approach that should be scaled up. So this is a huge challenge because there are multiple approaches that are being used. There are multiple approaches that can be built upon, maybe haven’t been built upon yet, but how do you actually make the bet on the right approach that will bring on board the most number of actors, you know, as I mentioned earlier, its citizens, it’s the community, its government, and thinking of government in different levels. In Nigeria, for example, you have the federal level government, and then you have state level governments that are completely potentially not seeing things in the same way. There are some norms that exist in certain states that then contradict how any type of approach the federal government is taking, you have private sector actors, etc. So there is an ecosystem of actors that you have to think about and whatever approach is being proposed, what is the role of all those ecosystem actors? Will they be able to be brought on board and lead? So I think, you know, making the bet on the right approach is a challenging situation that donors have, and then in order to help influence, sort of the decisions on where and which ones to make bets on, I think it goes back to a couple of things. One is where their rich data coming out saying that you have the convergence of actors, that you are seeing XYZ outcomes and significant shifts in communities that you’re working in or in systems that you’re trying to change that can be replicated. So it’s about the data, it’s about the evidence and being able to use that in order to make the case. Then it’s this other aspect of, you know, that Sanjay rightly pointed out in terms of scale, scale cannot be bought. There’s not enough funding in the world to buy scale. So you have to have that partnership with the government. And scaling what works with government, rather than what works at scale is a big topic for them. If they’re investing resources, either loans that they’re acquiring, or their own revenue into programs, they want to make sure that it can actually scale for the majority of their population. So that’s a huge bet for governments to take. In terms of funding smaller organizations, I think that aspect is very important in finding the right path, finding the right approaches that start to bring that convergence. But then working strongly with government, working strongly with other actors is quite key. So if that can be demonstrated, then that’s when I think donor’s appetites are more open to exploring that solution, understanding the data, understanding the outcomes that can be achieved through that approach. And then definitely seeing if there is appetite from all those other actors.

Elena  4:35  

Thank you, Sybil. Thank you so much. Sanjay, would you like to add on?

Sanjay  4:39  

I think Cybil covered it very well. I just want to leave with one thought that people always ask this question. How do we fund systems change? I think the question is how do we change funding systems. And I think that also is all the people on the call and the community here have to think about if we are serious about large scale systems change, then we have to catalyze a change in the funding systems. Because it’s not homogeneous. It’s a funding system, the money that goes into innovation is different from the money that goes into scale is different from the money that goes into co-creation different from money that goes into building the capacity and the infrastructure of the country. So we have to look at it like a system, and then figure out what are the different levers? So it would probably be wrong for me to say that, I don’t want to oversimplify this. It’s a system in itself. And if social entrepreneurs who are trying to drive large scale change, understand the nuances of the systems, it might be – and it’s extremely hard. I’m not at all making it easy because when you have a system, we know systems change is hard. So changing a funding system is also not easy, but that’s why we’re looking at it like a system, rather than as a resource pool, which funds a proposal, right, that’s a very simplistic view of funding.

Elena  6:08  

Thank you, Sanjay, and what you said certainly very important and it’s resonating particular with the collective I will mentioning in the very beginning, Catalyst 2030, that is really trying to shift the funding paradigm, you know, and try to expand that pie as you say, to not come from a generosity – expanding the pie in the sense of not not having a scarcity mentality, but looking at how we can leverage those resources and channel them in a way that is going to, you know, support those system of belief that that needs to be adapted into change to nice to embrace new mentality.