A Pragmatic Playbook for Impact: Direct, Widespread, and Systemic

Bellwether Education Partners / June 2022

How Does This Playbook Support Organizations to Broaden Their Impact Strategies?

This framework isn’t a recipe. Rather, it’s meant to be a pragmatic playbook for education entrepreneurs interested in expanding their work within or across Direct Impact, Widespread Impact, and Systemic Impact strategies. It draws from the lessons education entrepreneurs have shared with us across whole-school models as well as programs that focus on rigorous, evidence-based, personalized, and relationship-driven supports like tutoring, whole-child programming, and postsecondary advising. The original genesis of this analysis was to explore how organizations expanded from Direct Impact to Widespread Impact models. However, we soon discovered that this evolution was frequently linked to larger ambitions to create Systemic Impact, and we expanded the scope to consider how all three strategies interact (even as our significant focus remains on Widespread Impact).

We do not intend for this to be a “grand unified theory of everything,” but we do hope it’s a strong, practical resource that covers many of the decisions organizations are making about how to maximize their impact: how they work within and across each impact strategy; the deliberate choices they’ve made in program design; what this has meant for how they measure their impact; and what changes this has required around talent, systems, and organizational design. We’re excited to continue learning from the successes and challenges organizations face in advancing these three strategies for impact.