Ditkoff, Susan Wolf 1

Successful Social Change Takes Patience and Audacity


After a difficult summer of social and political unrest, we thought it was a good time to look at what’s actually working to bring about social change. An article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Audacious Philanthropy caught our eye. Its co-author Susan Wolf Ditkoff scanned the globe and found 15 successful social change campaigns that have had major impact. She assesses South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaign, the legislative success of marriage equality in the US, and an initiative that got large numbers of motorcycle drivers in Vietnam to wear helmets.

For philanthropists who want to get behind other successful campaigns, Wolf Ditkoff urges patience; most of the programs she researched spanned more than 20 years. “There is this real tension, of people who want to give money, they want be generous, they want to solve problems, especially when they’re newer,” Wolf Ditkoff tells us. “And after three years, they think ‘Wait, I’ve been doing this forever.’ And to some extent, the reaction is, ‘Honey, let me tell you a story. This is not a three years and out kind of thing.’

As a partner at the Bridgespan Group, Ditkoff works to break intergenerational cycles of poverty by advising philanthropists, nonprofits and business leaders who are interested in social change.

Additional Resources

Harvard Business Review article: Audacious Philanthropy

Case Studies of Successful Social Change Campaigns

Philanthropy Roundtable: What Is the Most Daring, Audacious, and Successful Grant of the Past 100 Years? 

Giving That Gets Results: An Introduction by Susan Wolf Ditkoff 

The Bridgespan Group’s website

The Bridgespan Group on Twitter

Featured Image: Susan Wolf Ditkoff

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