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  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E197 - System Strategy with Seth Reynolds

“When we talk about systems change and systems thinking, the systems bit is understanding how the things that we do are multiply connected, and dynamically connected…”

- Seth Reynolds

In this episode I speak with Seth Reynolds System Change Principle at NPC. We speak about System Strategy: what it means, how charities can develop one and what it could mean for their organisation and the delivery of the impact that they and others are trying to make.

The current system of strategy

Most of our experience of defining our organisational strategies has been to look at the problem our organisation is seeking to tackle, our charitable objects or objectives, and then build and maintain our organisation to achieve this. Seth’s point is that this isn’t enough in most if not all cases to tackle the totality of any cause, no matter how big an organisation is.

Taking a systems view of the challenge that your organisation is seeking to overcome or deal with can be done even if you are not in a position to collaborate at the moment. Similarly, trialling collaborative projects might be a good way for your organisation to test the waters and begin to develop an expertise in collaboration with other organisations seeking to achieve a shared goal.

For so many of us, there are times where we and our charity seems to be struggling on alone against a mighty challenge. This can be quite demoralising. What if there are others out there who we could find common ground with to affect greater change?

Challenges for charities working collaboratively

Charities should not see collaboration as an opportunistic add-on to seek out new funding while maintaining their existing course of action. They should be baking this into their organisation’s strategy. Charities should be giving resource to this and building this into their budgets.

This is an emerging model and needs time to be tested, adapted and grown within organisations. It might require a level of patience and a leap of faith among Boards, CEOs and senior leadership teams.

What Systems Strategy could achieve

What could the charity fundraising landscape look like if more of us sought out that common ground and devised collaborative project approaches, or a value chain approach to tackling the wider issues affecting or causing the need that our charity seeks to address.

Could we similarly focus greater funding for it from funders who are clearer on the bigger picture challenges rather than the micro part of that challenges that we are desperately seeking to address?

System Strategy: Whose court is the ball in?

Where does the responsibility lie to bring collaboration between civil society organisations out? Well, funders have a substantial amount of power to encourage this process, as do organisations that are already leading on coordinating organisations for campaigning and other project work.

It’s not enough for our organisations to exist and do our bit of the job well, we all have a responsibility to contribute to the wider world of support for our beneficiary groups. If we genuinely want to be a part of progressive change in society then system strategy sounds like a good solution to me.

This episode of Charity Chat has been brought to you by our platinum sponsor Work for Good. Work for Good believes everyone should be able to turn the work they do into good. Through their fundraising platform, they offer charities a way to engage and work with small businesses, including founders, owners and sole traders who want to make an impact for charities through their sales. To find out more, please visit

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode

Related episodes that you may be interested in:

E24 - Charities Helping Charities with Nicky Winn -

E193 - Measuring Impact With Rosie McLeod -


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