"Our democratic institutions have taken many hits in the last few years, and organizations working to improve democracy have been struggling with how to continue with long-term strategies despite dramatic changes. The Democracy Fund – a sponsor of NCDD2018, recently shared this article on adapting long-term strategies when immediate needs may call for different actions which may seem not in line with the larger vision. The article speaks to how the Democracy Fund has worked on being better able to respond to change and offers advice, for foundations and other orgs, on how to address these challenges.
Adapting Long-term Strategies in Times of Profound Change
Over the past few years, foundations have increasingly embraced a systems approach, formulating longer-term strategies designed to solve chronic, complex problems. We value foundations for having strategic patience and being in it for the long haul. But what happens when they carefully craft a set of strategies intended for the long-term, and the context of one or more the interconnected problems they are trying to address changes considerably? Our experience at Democracy Fund, which aims to improve the fundamental health of the American democratic system, provides one example and suggests some lessons for other funders.
My colleagues and I chronicled the systems-thinking journey of Democracy Fund as we went about creating initiatives. After becoming an independent foundation in 2014, we went through a two-year process of carefully mapping the systems we were interested in shifting and then designing robust strategies based on our understanding of the best ways to make change. Our board approved our three long-term initiatives—elections, governance, and the public square—in 2016..."