Giving Compass’ Take:
• The National Council of Nonprofits gives us an overview of “collective impact” — working together, sharing info and resources to solve a complex problem — and explains why it’s so important in philanthropy.
• The inclusion of community voices is emphasized, which is something that organizations involved in collective approaches should always be aware of. Shared vision is also a top priority.
“Collective impact” describes an intentional way of working together and sharing information for the purpose of solving a complex problem. Proponents of collective impact believe that the approach is more likely to solve complex problems than if a single nonprofit were to approach the same problem(s) on its own. While collective impact seems very similar to plain old “collaboration,” there are certain characteristics that distinguish collective impact initiatives – and make them successful.
What is the “Collective Impact” Framework?
In a collective impact initiative the participants are often a combination of individuals, organizations, grantmakers, and even representatives from the business community and government. According to Hanleybrown, Kania, and Kramer, the following characteristics are present in a collective impact initiative: (but some other important characteristics, such as the inclusion of community voice, as noted in this article, are critical too.)
The participants share a vision of change and a commitment to solve a problem by coordinating their work; they agree on shared goals.
Participants also agree to measure or monitor many of the same things, so that they can learn across the initiative, and hold each other accountable.
To be most effective, the activities of all the participants are coordinated by a “backbone,” which could be a single organization, a single person, or a steering committee that represents all the participants. The backbone is often most responsible for “building public will” and making sure that the initiative stays focused and moves forward. The backbone also focuses on building a culture that encourages information sharing and candor, and doesn’t shirk from resolving conflicts so that trusted relationships emerge among the participants. Typically the backbone plays an administrative role such as convening meetings, coordinating data collection, connecting participants with each other, and facilitating the activities of the initiative, and the relationships, so that working together the participants can get past barriers, and are efficient and productive. The backbone may also facilitate or attract financial resources to the collective impact initiative.
Activities of the initiative are described as “mutually reinforcing” because they are designed to remind all participants that they depend on each other to move the initiative forward. Mutually reinforcing activites ensure that the activities of the participants are aligned; directed towards shared measurement; and are making progress towards common goal(s).
Finally, a successful collective impact initiative depends on resources to keep it going, and consistent and open communication between all the participants, so that everyone is informed and stays motivated over time.
Read the full article about collective impact at National Council of Nonprofits.
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