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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 have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions
  2. Shared Measurement: Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable
  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action
  4. Continuous Communication: Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and appreciate common motivation
  5. 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

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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