The purpose of Criterion Institute is to expand who sees themselves as able to use finance as a tool for social change. At the core, we are changing “how” social change happens. As a result, over the past 20 years, Criterion has had a significant focus on our “how.” Criterion’s six areas of activity reflect our assumptions about how we think change happens. They are also a reflection to the world that this kind of change is possible. Our activities are not only accomplishing our goals; they are modeling a way of doing things.

Criterion has three values that have been the core of the organization since our founding: grace, hospitality, and the power of invitation. These values shape our priorities in how we implement our work. They inform the practices that translate our values into the day-to-day implementation of activities. Our work fundamentally challenges norms and assumptions about how things get done. We are attentive to how our practices allow us to either navigate systems of power effectively or disrupt them elegantly. Our distinctive Criterion practices incorporate our values and our commitment to reimagining power in how we go about our work. We approach our work rooted in our mission, our values, our theory of change, and our overriding commitment to transforming power relations.

Over the last 20 years, we have experimented with how to advance system change work. The six areas of activity that we outline in this document represent Criterion’s theory of how change happens in the world. These areas of activity follow a consistent thread throughout our history. While the categories and names may have shifted, the underlying practices are consistent and have been built over the past two decades.

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