Since Mark Kramer and I published Collective Impact in the Stanford Social Innovation Review last winter, we’ve been hearing stories from organizations and innovators, not only in the U.S. but from around the world, who are using this idea to transform their communities. The power of Collective Impact as an approach to solving social problems is striking a resounding chord with individuals and organizations from all sectors. Could we be on the verge of more broadly adopting a new paradigm for social change?
In our recent client work, FSG has supported foundations, nonprofits, corporations and governments in using a collective impact approach to address complex social challenges in areas as diverse as youth substance abuse, public education reform, marine fisheries sustainability, and even global development. Our real time learning from this work is helping us to shape and continually refine what it takes to successfully implement collective impact efforts so that we can better support those who are translating this approach into practice. A few questions that we want to explore on this blog over the coming months:
- What are the most critical dimensions to the five conditions for Collective Impact success (Common Agenda, Shared Measurement, Mutually Reinforcing Activities, Continuous Communication, and Backbone Support)?
- How do you know if your community (or issue) is ready and ripe for collective impact?
- What do the key five conditions of collective impact look like from a tactical perspective? For example, how do we structure workgroups effectively? How can we collect necessary data in cost-effective ways? Can more than one group take on the backbone responsibilities?
- What unique roles can funders and government agencies play in catalyzing and supporting the effort?
- In our research we are continuing to uncover powerful Collective Impact examples across very different contexts, from the inner city to rural America, to activity in developing countries. Which communities and organizations do you know about who are actively applying this approach, and what are they learning?
There are many more questions to answer, and we are eager for your feedback, both the positive and the constructively critical. This is a space for active and honest dialogue that we hope will drive greater understanding for all of us of how to improve and accelerate collective impact efforts. We look forward to inviting posts from guest bloggers who are practitioners of collective impact, and to using this space as one for sparking continued dialogue in the field.
In the meantime, I encourage you to visit our Social Impact blog to read more about how my FSG colleagues are thinking about collective impact in their work: Laura Herman observes how the Clinton Foundation in Cartegena, Colombia is helping Martha Montes move out of poverty and Fay Hanleybrown contemplates the ways in which the oft-maligned brussels sprout helps us to better understand successful coalitions. We look forward to continuing the virtual conversation!
John Kania is a Managing Director at FSG. He is the co-author of the article Collective Impact which appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011. He recently led a session on Collective Impact for the White House Council for Community Solutions.