Collective Impact Links and Resources

Here are a number of links to articles, websites and videos on the subject of collective impact initiatives and approaches.

Article on behavior change at a policy level- relevance to energy-saving habits

Britain’s Ministry of Nudges
Collective Impact Success – The Vital, Emerging Role of Technology

Community-Platform Project:

Shanna Ratner: Her  You Get What You Measure workshop.

Civic Leadership Project, creating a civic culture one community at a time:

This article from the NY Times is relevant to discussions on improving childhood outcomes. In a nutshell, if we want to improve test scores, we need to reduce family poverty.
NYTimes:  What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?
A study of what happened with a Native American tribe shows a big effect on children:

View the 3 short videos on collective impact (about 2-3 mins each.)

How sites have “failed forward”.

The  FSG website, has excellent resources on Collective Impact (as well as Shared Value), with several examples.

Memphis has a complex collective impact project called Memphis Fast Forward, with 5 initiatives.

The “People First” initiative focuses on education (school readiness, college readiness, adult education, etc) and has defined sub-goals similar to those discussed locally in Ithaca

The Green Mountain Coffee Roasters:

Judy Wicks, owner of White Dog Café:

The following is from:

You’ve probably heard it said that we need to transition to a new economy. The problems with the “old economy” sure are clear enough: gross inequality, political gridlock, a climate crisis, and much more. We know the problems. But what’s the solution? As Gandhi would put it, it’s important to have a “constructive program” showing what we do want, and not just talk about what we don’t. That’s why so many people are working to build a new economy that is fair, sustainable, and where the citizens make the decisions. For a picture of some of the work underway to build this economy, click on our new interactive graphic:transition to a new economy

This picture is just one attempt to show the ongoing work to build the new system. But what will the system really look like? That’s an open question – and we want to know what you think. Tell us what’s missing from the picture.

New economies are locally rooted, and here at IPS Boston we root our work in our own backyard – the diverse Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. That’s why for the past three years we have supported the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition.

We also recognize that local economies are nested within larger systems, so we support work to enhance the resilience of the New England region.

Interested? Click here to receive regular updates about IPS New England’s new economy work.

Collective Impact Summary  (related articles, which provide more depth, are hotlinked, even with asterisks)

What is Collective Impact?

Collective Impact is a change strategy that began spreading with an article by John Kania and Mark Kramer (from FSG) in the Winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem.  Collective Impact is best employed for problems that are complex and systemic rather than technical in nature. Collective Impact initiatives are currently being employed to address a wide variety of issues around the world, including education, healthcare, homelessness, the environment, and community development.

The Five Conditions of Collective Impact Success

Collective Impact is more rigorous and specific than collaboration among organizations. There are five conditions that, together, lead to meaningful results from Collective Impact:

Common Agenda: All participants have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions

Shared Measurement: Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable

Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action

Continuous Communication: Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and appreciate common motivation

Backbone Organization: Creating and managing collective impact requires a separate organization(s) with staff and a specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative and coordinate participating organizations and agencies


Many believe that Collective Impact merits attention as an important model for achieving social and environmental change because, when skillfully managed under the right circumstances, CI has great potential to achieve greater social progress at scale. CI seems to foster collective vigilance (the ability to accurately see and stick with the resources and solutions that best fit our situation), collective learning, and collective action.

FSG notes that collective impact poses many challenges, of course:

○      the difficulty of bringing together people who have never collaborated before,

○      the competition and mistrust among funders and grantees,

○      the struggle of agreeing on shared metrics,

○      the risk of multiple self-anointed backbone organizations,

○      and the perennial obstacles of local politics.

●      Other concerns include(asterisks below are hot-linked to various articles)

○    the task remains daunting for some*

○      the risk of rushing the process of bringing leaders together for CI*

○      problems with measurement systems — some things are not readily quantifiable; too data driven*; focus on short-term data can trap groups into doing the most measurable activities, not necessarily the right ones*.

○      timing (CI usually takes years; stakeholders may not be able to afford the time that it often takes)*

○      losing sight that solutions must be to build stronger communities not just stronger programs and services*

●      But, according to FSG, “the greatest obstacle to success is that practitioners embark on the collective impact process expecting the wrong kind of solutions”.  The process and results of collective impact are emergent rather than predetermined, the necessary resources and innovations often already exist but have not yet been recognized, learning is continuous, and adoption happens simultaneously among many different organizations.

●      Important Lessons Learned include:

○      Navigate power dynamics to incorporate perspectives of people with lived experience (aka marginalized community members  es):  Tamarack Institute has been deliberate about inviting people with lived experience to join leadership roundtables, but has found that power dynamics often stifle the impact of their contributions. In one instance, Tamarack amplified the voices of those with lived experience by recruiting 50 low income community members to form a separate focus group where issues could be discussed in a safer space. Focus group leaders were themselves low income, and participated in both the focus group and the leadership roundtable. The ability to bring the voice of the group to the leadership roundtable provided the low income participants authority and power to strengthen emerging ideas. Through such structures, people with lived experience have the opportunity and agency to help shape the initiatives intended to benefit them

○      b) Incentivize funder involvement in the Initiative: Tamarack maintains a practice of involving funders in the initiative beyond their direct financial contribution by encouraging participation in initiative convenings and organizing a community of practice where funders can share knowledge and develop expertise.… One funder was persuaded by Tamarack to learn more about the initiative and, impressed with his learnings, increased his financial contribution by ten. Tamarack has found that funder participation increases knowledge and trust, which in turn leads to greater commitment through challenges. It also opens the door for funders to recognize and offer relevant additional resources both financial and via connections to new groups of community people, including other funders, politicians, and community leaders

○      c) Experiment with Developmental Evaluation: Finding that traditional forms of evaluation do not suffice to measure and improve complex community change, Tamarack has embraced experiments with Developmental Evaluation “a tool for evaluating complex problems and adaptive solutions”. Referring to complex community change as a mystery, not a puzzle, Mark Cabaj explains, “In a puzzle, if you do your homework and get more data, you will solve the puzzle. . . In a mystery, it’s not so much data as sense making that’s really critical.” Developmental evaluation focuses on the relationships between people and organizations over time, and the problems or solutions that arise from those relationships. Rather than render definitive judgments of success or failure, the goal of developmental evaluation is to provide an on-going feedback loop for decision-making by uncovering newly changing relationships and conditions that affect potential solutions and resources.

This readiness assessment can help organizations explore what it would take to undertake a CI initiative, and determine which capacities need to be developed to prepare for and launch a CI initiative.

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