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Shaping the Collective Impact Learning Agenda

Posted by: Robert Albright on 12/13/2011

FSG recently hosted a breakfast meeting with 15 funders that were attending the Independent Sector conference in Chicago. We organized the breakfast in response to the growing hunger from funders and others in the social sector for how Collective Impact can be achieved in practice.

The purpose of the meeting was to 1) update funders on momentum around Collective Impact, 2) discuss the next wave of Collective Impact efforts in addressing complex adaptive social problems, and 3) solicit funders’ feedback in shaping the Collective Impact learning agenda to drive future thinking in the field.

Several key themes emerged during this breakfast meeting:

  • Value Proposition of Collective Impact: In a time of scarce resources, Collective Impact is a powerful concept because it focuses on realigning resources and not investing large amounts of new dollars. Collective Impact’s value proposition of leveraging existing resources should be clearly communicated to key stakeholders such as private funders, nonprofit providers, public sector partners, and corporate partners.
  • Role of Backbones: Effective backbone organizations require a unique skill-set, including facilitation, data analysis, and project management. Given the importance of this interstitial backbone role, the field would benefit from more insight on creating and equipping backbones with the right skills to succeed.
  • Other Examples of Collective Impact: Funders identified a strong interest in additional case studies of effectively implementing Collective Impact, including the timeline, resources, and roles necessary to drive successful outcomes. Examples should continue to stress how Collective Impact is different from other types of collaboration.
  • Collective Impact Readiness: Funders want to know about the readiness conditions for Collective Impact, to more clearly understand when Collective Impact approaches are appropriate and when they are not appropriate to implement.
  • Role of Shared Measurement: Given the challenges of using data to inform collective problem-solving, the field would benefit from more tools and how-to guides for driving the adoption of effective shared measurement practices.
  • Based on feedback from this conversation, FSG is exploring several ways of advancing field-wide Collective Impact learning. Some areas for further exploration include building the leadership capacity of backbone organizations, creating wider access and understanding of the promise of shared measurement, and profiling successful Collective Impact efforts across various issue areas.

    We welcome your feedback and ideas on how to most effectively advance the Collective Impact learning agenda for the field.



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