Letter From the Executive Director

Garfield Foundation staff, clockwise from top left: Ruth, Jennie, Jessica, Mollie, Motaz, Eleni and Jen.


In the nearly two decades that I have led the Garfield Foundation, I can assuredly testify that it has been a team effort to accomplish the impacts we set out to achieve. We have been blessed with a supportive and risk-embracing board; a fantastic, talented and generative staff; and committed aligned partners in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

At the Garfield Foundation, we believe the underlying reason that far-reaching and sustained environmental and social changes have eluded us is because they are complex, systemic issues that are stubbornly resistant to scattered symptom-level interventions. As such, we have been avidly experimenting with systems thinking tactics to align and connect actions across the systems we are trying to shift. Our experience in supporting, co-designing, and advising two ambitious collaborative networks, RE-AMP and Cancer Free Economy Networks, has consistently borne out that taking time to collectively understand the system we want to change; agreeing upon a shared guiding star goal; experimenting with multiple, interconnected systems interventions; building collaborative capacity; and embracing reflection and learning to inform ongoing strategy are all necessary and effective systems change actions.

While the Garfield Foundation is committed to supporting progress on the sustainability issues on which the RE-AMP and CFE Networks are focused (climate change and toxic pollution reduction), we are also deeply committed to building the field of systems-informed collaboration with other foundations and practitioners. We appreciate, enthusiastically, that more foundations and nonprofit organizations are embracing networks as a strategic investment. To help accelerate our collective learning, we recently created a Network Support Grants Program to provide capacity building dollars to emergent networks, and connect them with each other in learning communities.

We have learned a great deal from our investments and experiments in systems change and collaborative networks, yet the work requires much broader investments and deeper collaboration across philanthropy. To that end, we seek partnerships with other organizations to advance systems change practices and impacts together. The Garfield Foundation is committed to helping build more shared knowledge around ‘how to’ facilitate deeply aligned, systems informed, cross-sector collaborations, and we are excited to learn from others who are similarly invested in systems change.   

In solidarity,


Mollie SpeiglmanLetter From the Executive Director