• Description

At Bridgespan, we call the organizations that are often key to unlocking equitable systems change "field catalysts." While equitable systems change requires a diverse set of actors playing distinct and complementary roles across a field or ecosystem, field catalysts harmonize and drive that multifaceted work, serving as a kind of nerve center for the matrix of activity needed to transform our inequitably designed systems. Think of the critical role Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, played in the eradication of polio, or the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' contribution to the dramatic plunge in teen smoking rates. In another example, the goal of marriage equality in the United States was reached thanks, in part, to the Freedom to Marry organization, which orchestrated its campaign for 12 years.

Behind the scenes, philanthropy often plays a role in these achievements. Surely there must be other opportunities for funders to support equitable systems change. So we set out to learn more about the origin stories of field catalysts, the challenges they face, and—importantly—the ways in which they believe funders can help them.