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Sizing up the challenge

Gepost op 28 juli 2021
How an ambitious quest to scale up its impact inspired a Dutch foundation to change the way it does business

In late 2014 I was appointed executive director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, a Dutch organisation focused on early childhood development worldwide since 1965. Shortly thereafter, I did an interview for this magazine. I shared our view that the principal problem facing the field was the challenge of scale.

This article is about the changes our team made inside the organisation to pursue impact at greater scale. I offer it because talk of ‘scale’ and ‘systems change’ is common in philanthropy, but these conversations tend to focus on external strategy as opposed to what we need to adjust in our own operations to support strategy. The main point is that if a foundation is going to strive for very different kinds of outcomes, it is likely to require major internal changes to organisation, culture and capabilities. This is an important part of our practice that we don’t talk about enough.

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Written by: Michael Feigelson, chief executive of the Van Leer Group.

Credits: Alliance magazine

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