Robert and Diane Conconi
Robert and Diane Conconi

Whether we are talking about addiction, abuse, climate change, education, hunger, immigration or isolation, as we unpack we eventually get to that word: inequality. Someone has power and/or feels powerful while someone else does not. There is ample evidence that more equitable societies are happier and overall perform better. Therefore, it is our job as philanthropists to help increase equity and attempt to do so through a systemic and thoughtful process.

1. Why systems change?

Our definition of systems change is a fundamental shift in policies, practices, relationships, power dynamics and deeply held norms and values. Systems influence how the world works, how we act and interact, how we evaluate. Systems are what perpetuates inequality. They are supported by the existing infrastructure and policies, as well as culture and long-standing beliefs. Therefore it is our job as philanthropists to work on changing the systems or providing a compelling alternative.

2. Why global problems?

In today’s interconnected world, problems, just like goods and services, freely circulate the globe. From Afghanistan through Canada to Zanzibar we are all connected. Nowhere is it more evident and contentious than when we consider climate change or immigration. But it is not limited to those segments. This connectedness also comes with a great benefit of learning from the global community. While our specific contexts might be unique, the problems we are attempting to solve are remarkably similar.

3. Why locally?

In addition to the global view, local context continues to play a major and essential role in how systems are structured, how they operate, what values are prioritized, which groups are prioritized, etc. For us, as a Canadian foundation operating in British Columbia, local context means our province. We believe that deep local context along with strong local relationships based on trust is essential in order to be an effective agent of change.

4. Why do systems need to change?

Systems get established usually by institutions or government policy. Sometimes they are supported by corporate innovation, but they are not made to be continuously adaptive and responsive to the needs of their users. At least not in a way we see it in the corporate world – especially in that of the technology sector. The technological revolution has accelerated the pace of change across sectors and put it in stark contrast to the slow pace of policy and social systems change. The scope and scale of systems change will vary depending on the context. Sometimes it’s as simple as a small tweak that can have a huge a ripple effect, or simply more capital towards a neglected or defunct project can be part of the solution. Other times it’s a much complex, nuanced and involved work.

5. Why does it need help from philanthropy?

The systems of today are set up to manage broad crises and in some cases acute needs. They are not set up to take the time and explore how to be more effective and proactive about the mechanics. They are not set up to reflect and improve in real time. Those moments of adjustment usually happen when something goes terribly wrong and then policymakers go into overcorrection mode to ensure that sort of thing never happens again. Of course, this is not the most helpful or cost-effective method. Our vision is for social systems designed in a dynamic way to best serve the needs of its clients. Clearly, all of this is complex and beyond any single organization, group, sector or government, but we each can play a role. Philanthropy has flexible resources that can help explore how we might improve various systems or replace them altogether.

6. Why us?

Here at the Conconi Foundation, we embrace the intangibles such as creativity, risk, openness, and collaboration. We believe those elements enable us to question the status quo and fund the types of organizations and initiatives looking to do something better than it was done before.

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