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Social and Systems Change

The Issue 

Given the complex systems and systemic issues that give rise to inequities for certain groups and geographies, United Way works to identify and change the underlying structures. We work across program framework areas through targeted work on the issues identified in our Systemic Solutions & Research Agenda. We aim to advance programs that lead to positive social and systems change.

Systemic issues require long-term, collaborative solutions aimed at changing entire systems and ways of working (i.e. processes and structures). Efforts to change systems can include generating evidence through research or evaluation, mobilizing knowledge and raising awareness, developing policy solutions, developing networks and collaboration tables, and advocacy with decision-makers.


increase in the number of police-reported hate crimes, between 2018 and 2019. Black, Arab, or West Asian populations were largely targeted in this increase


of Canadians identify as visible minorities. This number is expected to rise quickly. By 2036, more than 33% of working-age Canadians (15 to 64 years of age) are expected to be members of a visible minority group


of all members in the 44th House of Commons identify as a visible minority

How we help

United Way supports initiatives that spearhead social and systems change. These projects create change at the community, sector, institutional, and/or public policy level. Initiatives may use community building or community development approaches as a part of the process, but their end goals focus on broader system, institutional, or policy changes. United Way is particularly interested in initiatives seeking to support individuals, families, and communities that face systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community, and people with disabilities. We are also interested in programs located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure. Our partnerships seek to identify, research, and increase public policy initiatives (systemic solutions), provide policy analysis, development and/or advocacy, and strengthen community-based policy activities. 

Self-described visionary leader, Kemi Jacobs, smiles at the camera

The decision by the City of Toronto and United Way to bring all these agencies together at the tables has been a gamechanger in terms of how we work together. The North Etobicoke cluster has been really effective in accessing resources and ensuring that the needs of community members have been met.

Kemi Jacobs, Executive Director, Delta Family Resource Centre

February 24, 2020

Breaking barriers for systemic change

When multiple community organizations come together to meet the needs of vulnerable individuals, systemic change is possible.