Emergent strategy is needed to face today's complex challenges


Strategic philanthropy needs to evolve to meet the complex challenges our world now faces.  FSG has been working hard to understand how foundations can shift their focus from individual organizational efforts to co-creating systems, influencing the key levers that move a system towards or away from a given goal.  In the cover story of the latest Stanford Social Innovation Review, the authors from FSG articulate this new approach, which advocates moving from a pre-planned approach resembling a map, to a more agile compass.  To help explain these concepts we created the following motiongraphic video.

Why Emergent Strategy?

For over a decade, academics, consultants and nonprofit leaders have called for a series of approaches that encourage organizations to work in partnership with others who are like minded.  Perhaps the most popular of these approaches is FSG’s own Collective Impact – a much celebrated and misunderstood system for multi-stakeholder action.

So why are the same people who brought us Collective Impact articulating the need for this new approach and how are the two different?

While the lowercase collective impact is often used as an umbrella term for any effort where organizations are working toward a common goal, the approaches and metrics FSG advocates for in the approach by the same name are actually quite specific and are not recommended for every problem.

Emergent Strategy as outlined in FSG’s cover story in the SSI Review, and summarized in our video above, is a philosophy that allows funders to navigate a rapidly changing world with complex problems.  This new approach to strategic philanthropy takes as a given that some problems are so complex that they are constantly shifting, and therefore an emphasis on strengthening systems is required to respond to the evolving landscape.  This approach encourages foundations to build systems and influence elements in those systems, so that problems can be dynamically addressed in a way that would be impossible in earlier iterations of strategic thinking.