Listening and Engaging Locally with Systems Approach

Our aspirations for impact require us to be both courageous and humble in engaging complex systems. A systems approach is both a concept we use to inform our strategies and a practice we use to do our daily work.

Far too many places around the world are rooted in systems built on—and still rampant with—racism and many other forms of injustice. A systems approach allows us to better understand these complex environments beyond just treating the symptoms to address intractable social problems, so that everyone, not just a privileged few, can thrive.

The practice involves exploring the relationships of key components of a given system—from policies and practices to the social, cultural and economic factors—to identify which areas have the potential to create sustainable and transformational impact. In addition to learning from the best of current science and practice, a systems approach includes deep listening to a wide variety of voices. Together with our partners, we build a collective understanding of needs, patterns and possibilities that informs what we do and how we do it.

At Imaginable Futures, we use a systems approach to build and continually inform our strategies. This reminds us that we are part of the larger system, not separate from it.

Patterns and Problems First, Tools Second

Our hybrid structure provides us with the flexibility to fund and contribute to different levers in the system and tap into the strengths of both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. How we respond regionally and organizationally may include different forms of engagement to best meet local need and opportunity. Whether it’s collectively filling a gap in a system, sparking and supporting innovation, creating new networks and connections or changing narratives through data and research, we continue to cultivate tools, techniques and approaches in line with our values.

Collaboration Is Paramount

Our vision of the future cannot be achieved alone. Foundational to our systems approach are trusted relationships and collaboration. As a funder, we know we need the support and insight of others—including those most proximate to the injustices we are trying to address—to ensure a full and diversified perspective. We also know that the unjust patterns we seek to shift will require many varied partnerships and collective leadership.

Learning and Unlearning

Given the ever-changing nature of systems, we know we must continuously listen, learn and unlearn to update our understanding and adapt together with our partners. We must also be willing to step outside of the status quo and try new ways of thinking, funding and partnering.

What It Means for Where We Work

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Sub-Saharan Africa

We collaborate with partners in Kenya, South Africa and across Sub-Saharan Africa to expand equitable and diverse pathways to learning and dignified livelihoods. Working inside and outside the formal education system, we focus on the whole learner and their connection to their communities so that young people have the skills, opportunities and support they need to thrive. Given the inequitable outcomes for young girls and women, we also seek to improve access to child care, a primary barrier to learning.

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Our work in Brazil lives at the intersection of racial equity and education to support the creation of equitable learning environments where all learners feel safe, have agency and can reach their full potential—both inside and outside the classroom. We do this through supporting equity-based programs, research, advocacy and the representation of diverse voices in places of power.

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United States

Recognizing that early education and postsecondary education systems in the US are crucial keys to unlocking potential across multiple generations, we support equitable early learning experiences and prosperous education-to-career pathways for parents. We do this through investments in innovative solutions, equity-driven research and advocacy, community-based movement building and people-centered storytelling.

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Our global partnerships inspire our work and further our local impact. In addition to our partners in the local geographies in which we work, we invest in and partner with a small portfolio of changemakers with a global footprint. Aligned with our values and vision for impact, these partners provide important learnings that support our local work and can be scaled effectively for larger impact.

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Steps We Take to Invest

Our investment process is both agile, in line with the needs of the changemakers we support, and right-sized to the size of the investment or grant.

  1. 1
    Learning about You

    We are always looking for impactful, values-aligned partners who are working toward a similar vision. When evaluating an opportunity, our first step is to determine if there is both strategic and geographic alignment. We invite you to introduce yourself through our Open Door Portal, available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

  2. 2
    Building a Trusted Relationship

    Once we determine there is alignment with our strategy, we will engage by learning more about your vision, impact and operations. We will then co-create our partnership.

  3. 3
    Cultivating a Partnership

    As a partner, we aim to support “the whole entrepreneur” and organization by offering financial, strategic and operational support. Where impactful, we bring together our diverse network across private, social and public sectors to collaborate for greater shared learning and impact. And, we look forward to learning from you.

Are you changing the future of learners and families through education?

We are always looking for potential partners who have an idea, solution or research proposal and align with our geography-focused strategies. As Justice Seekers, we want to ensure our network is open to meet new people and learn from them. Our Open Door portal is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.