Funding the problem is funding innovation

For a long time in social change, we are used to fund solutions, programs or projects that are supposed to create change.  In cases, where we know the problem well enough and the solution is clear, then the question becomes how to fund it, who should do it and if there is more than on org. how do we decide the better one.

That’s the big assumption. We know the problem is, we know what to change to and we know how to make that change possible. In a lot of cases, the problem is actually not clear. What is the challenge? What does the customer want? What is a value to the customer? There are no straightforward answers to this.

At the same time, solutions are not easy to find. What can work to make it easy for a newly retiring individual to continue to maintain a sense of achievement and happiness? How do you deliver wellness” at home, if thats what the customer wants.

You will need to go through what I call the Adaptive Loop.

Adaptive LoopAdaptive Loop

When we are targetting a large context like baby boomers” it is more important to understand the context and get an understanding of the problem space - the needs, wants and aspirations of these people. At the same time, the current systems that deliver the current solutions. How do they work? What will work in the new context?

Wicking Trust is funding a new project with TACSI to explore exactly this. This is a great new step forward for philanthropic investing and I hope to see more of this in the space.

In a joint article in Genorisity Mag, Carolyn, CEO of TACSI &Tabitha Lovett, General Manager Philanthropy, Equity Trustees discuss their views on this. A few excerpts:


The Wicking Trust’s investment will help us make a systemic impact in ageing, funding a significant project rather than smaller scale programs for a short period.

So often when applying for funds you have to be able to articulate upfront the precise solution that will create impact. The exciting opportunity here is philanthropy investing in an organisation to understand the problem before building the solution.

This $1.7 million grant over three years will give us an opportunity to understand the diversity that exists within the Baby Boomer population and develop solutions that reflect that diversity.

Through the participation of Baby Boomers, policy makers, funders and organisations we will imagine what a system looks like for the transformational demographic change upon us; a system that enables people to live the lives they want as they age.


The 2012 Strategic Review of the Wicking Trust provided an opportunity to review and reflect upon the first eight years of the Trust’s operation and the ways in which philanthropy could affect systemic change in a particular area.

The feedback from grant recipients and the sector indicated that while the Trust was supporting great work in the area of aging and Alzheimer’s, it was falling short of the Trust’s stated goal of achieving systemic change.

Subsequently, the Trust’s guidelines were amended: To invest in organisations that seek to make systemic impact in the wellness and quality of life of the aged and/or those with or at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Equity Trustees was impressed by TACSIs innovative approach to tackling social problems. TACSIs co-design process seeks to engage all parts of the system (including, and especially, those most affected by the social issue) and is firmly fixed on developing and testing solutions.


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