Any complex problem requiring attention is rooted in a system or multiple overlapping systems.
Systems are interconnected wholes, and working from this perspective emphasizes relationships between people, sectors and organizations. The behaviour of complex systems is emergent and unpredictable, entailing many little-understood relationships. Our aim is to work together to design, innovate or shift policies and institutions to better serve people and the planet, and we believe this process requires us to remain curious, humble, and ready to learn. Key to our work is an acknowledgement that no one organization or sector (private, public, or nonprofit) has all the answers to, or ownership of, systemic problems. Innovation and collaboration are essential to achieving impact at scale, be it by harnessing the potential of new technologies, joining or creating partnerships with allies with whom we share a common vision and cause, or helping to spread new ideas that start small but have the potential for making a big change.
Scaling up, out and deep
Creating lasting solutions to systemic problems is an inherently messy process that requires both empathy and imagination. It also takes a commitment of time and patience to test new approaches and learn from them.
We have a commitment to learning—asking questions, sharing ideas, and engaging in focused experimentation—to help create the conditions necessary for systems change. In the search for effective solutions to society’s challenges, we take proactive risks and try new approaches that allow innovative ideas to flourish, while doing our best to learn from both the process and its outcomes.
We also seek ways to help positive changes on the margins of systems to scale up, out and deep:
- Scaling up effects change at an institutional, legislative or regulatory level.
- Scaling out replicates or spreads initiatives so that a greater number of individuals, groups or locations benefit.
- Scaling deep transforms relationships and culture, so that people see themselves reflected in the change and make it part of their day-to-day lives.
Impacts and lessons
Scaling Out, Scaling Up, Scaling Deep: Scaling Innovation
A key question on the minds of many social change practitioners and funders is how do we scale up our impact? Many feel overwhelmed by the fact that they have invested resources for decades into numerous local projects, which may have great results, but fail to collectively change the overall state of the system. Scaling Out, Scaling Up, Scaling Deep, by Darcy Riddell and Michele-Lee Moore, addresses how to solve this problem. The findings in this study reveal specific strategies for achieving scale, depending on whether the target is spreading an innovation, changing laws in the wider system, or shifting the cultural context within which a problem exists in the first place.Learn More
Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good
Outlines seven actions that Canada needs to undertake, in parallel, to mobilize new sources of capital, create an enabling tax and regulator environment, and build a pipeline of investment-ready social enterprises.Learn More
Inspiring R&D practices in Canada’s social impact sector
Canada spends over $300 billion annually on social outcomes, according to the OECD. Our fast-evolving societal challenges -- ranging from mental health, Indigenous communitiescategory access to quality education, and a lack of affordable housing -- demand equally fast-paced and nimble research, learning, experimental and replicating approaches so people can access the best possible services, supports and solutions, no matter where they live in Canada. This is where R&D comes in.Learn More