Key Points

· The nonobvious interrelationships among elements in a complex system often thwart people’s best intentions to sustainably improve system performance.

· The complex, nonlinear problems that most foundations address can be solved most effectively by thinking systemically instead of linearly about these problems.

· Systems thinking offers a range of analytic tools to improve our capacity to think systemically, including ways to distinguish problem symptoms from root causes, reinforcing and balancing feedback, system archetypes, mental models, and system purpose and goals.

· Applying these tools enables us to target highleverage interventions that can lead to sustainable, system-wide improvement.

· These tools can be applied using a five-step implementation process.

Open Access