Changing the systems that trap people in poverty


Only by changing underlying systems can we break the low-income poverty trap that millions of people find themselves in. This is why at SNV, we design and manage our projects in a way that they do not just deliver direct results but also contribute to systems change.

Direct results and systems change

Our projects influence markets and governance processes to function better by kickstarting markets, supporting governments and actors to improve their service delivery, and improving government and market accountability. We focus on projects that provide opportunities.

We change by doing and our direct results and contributions to systems change are intrinsically linked. Together, they create sustainable and large-scale impact.

Change from within

The deep on-the-ground engagement of our teams in combination with our expert knowledge helps to change systems from within. Whether it is sanitation tax collection, water supply spare part provision, farmer extension, SME business development, dairy service markets, or horticulture business platforms, we build models that are driven by local actors, fit in the institutional and political setting, can be locally financed and shift prevailing mindsets.

Four systems change parameters

Creating systems change is complex – especially in the fluid and unpredictable context we work in. In 2019, we mainstreamed the use of four success parameters into our project development and implementation: leveraging finance, kickstarting markets, institutional embedding with government and others and creating a new normal by changing rules and norms. These parameters have proven to be a pragmatic way to make systems change more tangible.

The parameters also help us narrate the results of our efforts to bring about systems change, clarifying what we did and examining why what we did was the right thing to do (or not) given the circumstances.

In the examples below, you can see that SNV significantly contributed to systems change along at least two, often three or four, of these parameters.

Tanzania: Igniting markets for solar energy

Kenya: Changing the way communities have cooked for generations

Bhutan: Enabling healthier lives through sanitation and hygiene