The Systems Change Podcast

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Source: Odin


Ashoka’s Globalizer team is launching a 6-episode podcast series on systems change! They have partnered with the well-known Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs podcast and host Fergal Byrne for the project.

Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify

Intro Episode

Fergal Byrne, host of Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, and Odin Mühlenbein, Lead of the Systems Unit at Ashoka Globalizer, introduce the Ashoka Systems Change Podcast

Episode 1: Jordan Kassalow

In this episode we explore a number of key questions at the heart of systems change: What is the motivation behind systems change? What are the differences and relationships between systems change and a direct service approach?

Jordan Kassalow is the founder of VisionSpring, an organisation that works to provide affordable access to eyewear, everywhere, and eliminate poor vision, due to the lack of eyeglasses-- the largest disability in the world.

VisionSpring’s initial focus was on distributing ready-made, non-prescription reading glasses via a network of Vision Entrepreneurs… an on-the-ground sales team, later evolving a broader approach using sales through distribution partners, and an emerging “full service” model, providing affordable, high-quality prescription glasses

By Autumn 2019, VisionSpring had reached 7 million people with eyeglasses and generated over $1.2 billion of economic impact for its customers.

Notwithstanding VisionSpring’s success, Jordan has been looking for ways to increase the scale of impact on this problem, for a more systems-based approach, and in 2016, he co-founded EYElliance, a system change, multi-sector alliance of over 60 organizations working together to eliminate poor vision due to the lack of eyeglasses. 

For more information, please find the link to a detailed case study on VisionSpring

Episode 2: Jeroo Billimoria

Jeroo Billimoria, including Childline India, Aflatoun and Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI). Jeroo Billimoria is the founder of many successful social ventures, including Childline India, a network of over 1000 organizations that provide support to millions of children each year, especially in crisis situations, as well as Aflatoun, an network of 275 partners that offers social and financial education to millions of children and young people worldwide.

In this episode, we mostly talk about Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI), a network that promoted systemic changes in the education and banking systems in dozens of countries to improve children's financial education. "Promoted", because CYFI announced that it had achieved its mission and shut down on 31 December 2019. An almost unheard-of accomplishment.

In the interview, Jeroo walks us through five tactics and five leadership principles that she used to build the network that was ultimately so successful on a systems level. Key questions that we address include: How do you create coalitions for systems change? What leadership principles should we adopt -- and which ones do we have to unlearn?

Episode 3: Michael Sani

Key questions: How do you decide which role you should play as a social entrepreneur? What is the relationship between systems change, personal development, and well-being?

Michael Sani founded Bite the Ballot (BTB), an organization in the UK that mobilizes young people to vote. BTB started as an idea in one classroom and grew into a national movement. At a national election in 2014, over 400,000 people registered to vote via BTB's platform. For the BREXIT referendum, that number was 1.9 million. The organization also promoted a number of policy changes that made voter registration easier for young people.

Each step of the journey required Michael to assume a different role, including teacher, organizational developer, campaigner, advocate, network builder, and others. In the interview, Michael walks us through his thought process of why he decided to transition from one role to another, as well as the difficulties and conflicts that these decisions entailed. He also highlights the importance of personal development and letting go of "ego" in order to have more impact on a systems level.

Episode 4: Kendis Paris

Key questions: What do social entrepreneurs have to do to promote policy changes? How can they support policy makers and administrators even without a big organization?

Kendis Paris founded Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), an organization that mobilizes the US trucking industry to fight human trafficking. TAT has registered and trained more than 850,000 professional drivers. TAT also played a key role in getting new policies approved that in many US states make spotting and reporting human trafficking activities a component of the mandatory professional driver's license trainings.

In the interview, Kendis explains how she found allies early on by making herself available to policy makers and administrators, traveling to spread her ideas, and being a bridge between administrators and the transportation industry. She also talks about the power of turning people into changemakers -- a core feature of many successful social entrepreneurs.

Episode 5: Silvia Bastante de Unverhau

Key question: How should foundations support systems change?

Silvia Bastante de Unverhau is a leading expert in philanthropy, with over 20 years of experience working across the international development, non-profit, business, and government sectors. She is currently the Chief Philanthropy Officer at Co-Impact, a collaboration between donors that pledged 500 million dollars for systems changing initiatives. 

In the interview, Silvia talks about the principles of funding systems change work, how it differs from traditional funding practices, and how foundations can adopt this new mindset. She also has tips for social entrepreneurs who are looking for funding for systems change work from a donor's perspective.

Please listen to the podcast and leave an honest review! Share it with fellow changemakers and funders and continue the conversation using #systemschange and @ashoka. We can all have more impact together if we work systemically.

The Ashoka Learning and Action Center and Globalizer teams have also written a report--Systemic and Empowering. It features five case studies from leading Ashoka Fellows and shows how they use systems change in their work. In that report, you will learn more about the controversies facing the field, but also how Ashoka’s focus on systems change makes it so that this controversy does not even apply to the Fellows precisely because of the systems changing ways they work!

Please read the report here and share with your colleagues, fellow changemakers, and potential funders.

Get involved in the conversation by posting your thoughts using the hashtag #systemschange and @ashoka!