A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Summary: Key Elements of Systems Change

What are the key takeaways?

  • A program approach results in some good problems, but they are rarely coordinated and many people are still unserved. In contrast, systems change takes a holistic, coordinated approach and improves outcomes for the entire community.

  • There are many reasons that homelessness has persisted in your community, despite your best efforts. Dig deeper as a group to develop a common understanding of the root causes of homelessness in your community and create a shared vision for the future.

  • Be accountable for your actions. If you are not aware that you are part of the problem, then you cannot be part of the solution!

  • Create a system that works for clients, not programs that work for providers or funders.

  • People have to choose to be part of the systems change efforts in your community, even after you develop a common understanding of the problem and a shared vision for your future. Test for a commitment to change and move ahead with those who are ready to implement your new plan.

  • Systems change requires continuous learning. It is not a static process and so you should always be looking to adjust or adapt your approach to serve those most in need in your community.


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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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