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What is Collective Impact?

Collective impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem.

In order to create lasting solutions to social problems on a large-scale, organizations — including those in government, civil society, and the business sector — need to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal.

Collective impact is a significant shift from the social sector’s current paradigm of "isolated impact," because the underlying premise of collective impact is that no single organization can create large-scale, lasting social change alone. There is no "silver bullet" solution to systemic social problems, and these problems cannot be solved by simply scaling or replicating one organization or program. Strong organizations are necessary but not sufficient for large-scale social change.

Not all social problems are suited for collective impact solutions. 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. Many of these initiatives are already showing concrete results, reinforcing the promise of collective impact in solving complex social problems.

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:

  1. Common Agenda: All participants share a vision for change that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving the problem through agreed-upon actions.
  2. Shared Measurement: All participating organizations agree on the ways success will be measured and reported, with a short list of common indicators identified and used for learning and improvement.
  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: A diverse set of stakeholders, typically across sectors, coordinate a set of differentiated activities through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.
  4. Continuous Communication: All players engage in frequent and structured open communication to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and create common motivation.
  5. Backbone Support: An independent, funded staff dedicated to the initiative provides ongoing support by guiding the initiative’s vision and strategy, supporting aligned activities, establishing shared measurement practices, building public will, advancing policy, and mobilizing resources.

Visit collectiveimpactforum.org for collective impact resources, tools, trainings and the latest news from the field.

What is collective impact? Scroll through this interactive page to learn the basics.

For more information on the preconditions of success for Collective Impact, how to catalyze a Collective Impact effort, as well as to learn more about the role of backbone organizations and shared measurement, please see our articles: Collective Impact and Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work

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