A New Yardstick for Leaders in the 21st Century

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This article originally appeared on World Economic Forum

Governments, businesses, schools, and parents all over the world need to adopt a new metric for success: the degree to which they enable others to become changemakers. To get started, we merely need to ask ourselves a simple question: "What percentage of people in my network, organization, or family know that they are changemakers?"

Systems change leaders have already adopted this metric. They build towards a society where everyone thrives, is powerful, engaged, and can contribute. We believe that as a leader in the 21st Century, you should do the same.

What unites social entrepreneurs, changemakers, or systems change leaders is a specific skill set allowing them to navigate complex challenges in a rapidly changing environment: cognitive empathy to recognize and understand social and environmental issues; the ability to collaborate in teams across cultures and sectors; the courage to be different; and a bias to action. What truly distinguishes them is their unique approach: they create inclusive environments in which diverse groups can contribute to mobilizing around a shared vision to build a solution.

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Ashoka insight

  • Systems change leaders have a specific skill set allowing them to navigate complex challenges in a rapidly changing environment.
  • They improve social systems by enabling whole groups of society to become changemakers.
  • The work of systems change leaders is still constrained by current funding practices.

Five principles to better fund systems change initiatives:

  • Embrace a systems mindset by being clear about the systems you want to change, incorporating systems change into your DNA, and actively look for funding opportunities
  • Support evolving paths to systems change by flexibly 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