The Challenge

Laudes Foundation was launched in early 2020[1], with an ambitious and timely emphasis on the dual crises of climate change and inequality. At the beginning of 2020, within the context of our vision and mission we faced several strategic, managerial and measurement challenges[2] associated with ensuring that the foundation would be ‘set up for success’:

  • Understanding and mapping the system(s) we needed to change, taking into account complexity and non-linearity across a range of actors (e.g. policy-makers, investors, business and workers) and issues across three industries;
  • Building a system-wide strategy with appropriate ways to intervene to drive change, including a theory of change that took account of complexity but showed several pathways to impact;
  • Developing systemic measurement and learning approach that could capture ours and our partners contributions to change, recognising that ‘traditional ways’ of monitoring and evaluation based on log-frames, key performance indicators, formative and summative evaluation would not provide sufficient flexibility and adaptive learning.

The Practice

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and while Laudes was barely launched, we began the strategy and systems mapping process concurrently, with points for discussion of emerging issues and findings to inform each other. We consulted with nearly 300 senior leaders across industry, philanthropy and with our partners to get their inputs on root causes of climate and inequality crises within the system, for the mapping; and also ideas on how we (and they) should intervene to make change, for the strategy. This was the best way to develop our understanding of system, because it challenged biases and uncovered blind spots in our thinking. Laudes staff began to build out programmes, importantly making linkages between them to avoid silo-ing, also drawing on lessons from C&A Foundation.

By the middle of 2020 we had sufficient understanding of the system and our emerging strategy to define 2025 outcomes and 2030 impacts. After this, our programme teams developed ‘casual chains’ that showed expected earlier and later changes needed to move towards outcomes. These were the essential building blocks for development of the system-wide theory of change (ToC). The ToC process took the casual chains and identified common change ‘archetypes’ in order to move towards a broader conception of ‘how change should happen’. This was then tested and refined through a series of workshops with the staff. However, it was not an easy process. There was plenty of constructive argument and listening needed to get to a consensus and ownership. This was coupled with a recognition that over time and with ongoing measurement and evaluation the ToC would need to be adapted.

The last part of our challenge was to develop measurement and learning system fit for the foundation system change ambitions. We had learnt from C&A Foundation that focusing measurement only what can be counted through key performance indicators (KPIs) ignored many important qualitative aspects of change and impact. We changed to focus on evidence – qualitative and quantitative; and on defining criteria that describe how well (or not) the system is changing – called rubrics[3]. We used the ToC to develop rubrics from the early and later changes and our outcomes, that could be used by our partners and us to track and rate the quality of changes, based on the all important evidence.

Since the end of 2020 we have been implementing our strategy, rolling out the new measurement and learning approach with our partners. Of course with any new way of working there are learning and adjustments to be made.

The Results

Four related results have been delivered that fundamentally underpin our systemic approach to effective philanthropic practice in strategy, grantmaking and measurement and learning:

  1. Economic system map for use by our partners and similar funders addressing climate and inequality. The map is now available on our website and includes more than 130 organisations who share our goals of mitigating the climate and inequality crises. It will continue to evolve and will be updated.
  2. Strategy that provides clarity for current and prospective partners and co-funders on where we intervene in the system and how we do so.
  3. System-wide Theory of change (ToC) shows the multiple ‘pathways’ to change through expected early and later changes by actors (policymakers; financial sector; business sector and workers / producers) and the industry (fashion, finance, built environment). The ToC serves as the critical element for development of measurement and evaluative criteria for systems change (the rubrics) and as a guide to existing and potential partners in aligning their own ways of intervening in the system with ours.
  4. Measurement and learning approach based on evaluative rubrics and ratings that provide criteria for assessing how well partners and the foundation are contributing to changes in the system. Focusing on the quality of change and what partners are learning.

Lessons / Advice to Peers

There are several lessons and / or friendly advice to peer organisations:

  • Systems mapping is critical to understand the landscape and to lay a foundation for strategy – with no map there is a risk strategy and theory of change will lack an ability to ‘see the horizon and over it’. Mapping should challenge bias and uncover blind spots.
  • A philanthropic strategy developed in isolation is no good strategy – strategy making is a group activity that requires internal and external input. This also creates trust and dialogue, and begins to build important collaborations needed to address climate and inequality challenges.
  • Measuring systems change is not only about what you can count – understanding change and learning from it requires mixed qualitative and quantitative evidence. Quality as well as quantity is what counts, alongside the courage to ask tough evaluative questions focused on how and why the system is changing. This will drive learning and adaptation.


Further resources


Lee Alexander Risby, Director of Effective Philanthropy,

Katy Hartley, Director of Strategy,

[1] – Succeeding and building on lessons learned from C&A Foundation.

[2] Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

[3] Rubrics are used by many organisations including, The World Bank, UN and bilateral funders and some foundations.