Building systems leadership to meet the region’s emerging complex societal issues


August marks 8 months since I’ve joined APC. Every day I am inspired by the creativity and tenacity of the diverse individuals and organisations of this vibrant community seeking to do good. Thank you members for welcoming me into the circle—first as Chief Strategy Officer, and now as Deputy CEO.

APC also turned 8 years old in July. The world is vastly different from when APC was founded in 2015—a pandemic came and never really left, heatwaves and floods have become more intense and frequent, the era of Artificial Intelligence has begun, and whole generations have escaped poverty only to hover precariously once again around the poverty line.

With widening inequality, a degrading environment, increasingly tense geopolitics, and continued underinvestment into the commons, warning signs loom as societal issues now extend far beyond the ability of individual philanthropists, single nations, or even philanthropy as a sector to solve. Hence, the question on my mind in these times: How does this community of members meet the complex societal issues emerging?

Precisely because the problems we face feel intractable, Laurence often shares passionately about ‘systems leadership’—the idea that each of us can lead ourselves and those around us towards ways of living and working that can better our societies. I am excited to work with our members to continue learning, experimenting for social impact, and nurturing systems leadership to create lasting change.

As such, I am pleased today to preview APC’s strategic framework for the future, which outlines how we will build on the work with members to date, and continue to live the fundamental values that inspired the founding of this organisation and community of impact-focused changemakers.

Our Vision

Our vision remains a better Asia through philanthropy, toward more fair, prosperous, and sustainable societies across the region. The biggest strength we lean on to achieve this is our members.  We want to walk together with you to create a more robust Asian response to address local needs that are increasingly cross-border in nature and to contribute perspectives on global and regional issues impacting our people. Anchored in member ideas and work, we are ready to bring our collective impact to the next chapter, through catalysing a more strategic, coordinated, and influential philanthropy in Asia.

Our Principles

This strategic framework is a starting point.

 I. We believe in the power of our membership community to drive impact.

  • We will continue to help members elevate philanthropic practice in areas that each member is passionate about.  With more members today, we also have more of a network effect to grow collaborative philanthropy in Asia.

  • APC has always been a neutral platform for convening; creating safe spaces to share and learn will remain a hallmark of this community, through workshops, dinner dialogues, learning journeys etc.

II. We catalyse collaborative action for the biggest areas of need.

  • APC’s ground-up initiatives have always spotlighted needs and modelled innovations. We continue to convene people with diverse views to co-design pathbreaking solutions to pressing issues, such as in traditional areas of poverty alleviation, in meeting the needs of vulnerable communities etc.

  • It also means learning about emerging areas of need, like intersectional issues of inequity, climate change, aging societies etc. Amongst other topics, we look to examine how climate action furthers SDG outcomes, building on the learnings of the APC Climate Collective these past two years, to reflect on what drives value in society, and philanthropy’s role in these areas.

III. We strengthen the philanthropy ecosystem with research and infrastructure. 

  • A broader understanding of the value of philanthropy to society is needed. We will develop research on strategic philanthropy in Asia (e.g., Philanthropist’s Guide, Future of Asian Philanthropy), collaborate across the philanthropy sector and showcase impact to improve how others in society view and engage with philanthropy. This creates more space for us all to work toward impact.

  • Similar to how APC members created the Asia Community Foundation (ACF) to address the difficulties of cross-border giving, we also hope to incubate more initiatives that improve the infrastructure for giving more and better. Thus, with members and other philanthropic stakeholders, the first step is to develop a shared view of what a supportive ecosystem looks like, today’s biggest gaps, and key ways to fill them.

IV. We dwell on systems leadership, surfacing Asian perspectives, and building new partnerships to seed action at scale.

  • Through member thought leadership and broader engagements, we seek a greater voice for Asian philanthropy. This would bridge local needs and solutions with regional and global issues affecting us. We would engage selectively in forums that advance members’ biggest areas of impact, e.g., funder collaboratives, G20, and UN bodies on SDGs like education and health, COP on climate etc.

  • The complexity and scale of issues today requires new relationships and ways of working. No one actor can solve them, and philanthropy must work with many parts of the public, private and non-profit sectors. Hence, we connect member efforts with new partners, e.g., global funders, partnership incubators, to co-create solutions commensurate to the scale of society’s problems.

Even in the present era of overlapping crises, there is much we can do together to make a difference in the lives of our fellow human beings. Our work requires boosting our collective ability to learn, act, and build together so our societies have the capacities to deal with whatever challenges emerge.

This will be a concerted team effort for both the APC team and members. As we embark on this journey, I seek your patience and teamwork as together, we learn to do even better to support this robust community and your ambitions for impact in Asia. Please reach out with any thoughts or questions. I look forward to getting to know you better and working ever more closely to realise our shared hopes for greater impact in Asia.

On behalf of the APC team,

Carol Tan
Deputy CEO
August 2023