Discovering better ways to solve social problems

The Staten Island Foundation: Collective Impact Initiative

Case Overview

With the support of the Staten Island Foundation, a cross-sectoral coalition engaged FSG to help design, organize, and launch a collective impact initiative designed to improve health outcomes on Staten Island, now known as the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse initiative.

The Challenge

Staten Island has the highest proportion of youth who binge drink in New York City, and the community has the highest proportion of youth to use a prescription pain reliever without a prescription. Local media frequently publish stories about young people who have overdosed or caused car crashes, underscoring the very real consequences of substance abuse for the local population at large.

To combat these community health challenges, a cross-sectoral group of local nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, funders, and other stakeholders joined together to improve youth health outcomes in Staten Island through the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse initiative (TYSA). TYSA aims to build strong public awareness of the urgent need to tackle youth substance abuse by helping to better align current efforts and fill necessary gaps, and by creating a strong strategic framework for improved collective impact.

Approach & Solutions

FSG engaged in several key phases of activity to help the Steering Committee reach its goal of decreasing youth substance abuse, including: reviewing key documents and publications; interviewing more than 100 community stakeholders including youth; benchmarking against analogous community-based substance abuse collaboratives nationwide; facilitating conversations and fostering agreement among the cross-sector Steering Committee; and forming and facilitating strategy selection among diverse workgroups. Through these activities, FSG helped the Steering Committee to more clearly define the problem, envision the ultimate outcomes it wanted to achieve, set specific target goals, and identify key progress indicators to track along the way, all captured in a Common Agenda for Change.

FSG also worked with the Committee to create a Blueprint for Implementation which outlines the organizational structures and processes needed to transform the plan into action. Work then shifted into organizing for action, as workgroups formed based on the drivers of change outlined in the Common Agenda. FSG supported in-depth action planning through the workgroups and Steering Committee to develop detailed, evidence-informed strategies and related performance measures. Community engagement continued throughout this phase as the media, political officials, and parents and youth participated in workshops and focus groups.

In addition, FSG helped to lay the groundwork for baseline data collection and create a long term roadmap for shared measurement, and build organizational structure, capacity, and sustainability as the backbone was created. Upon completion of FSG’s engagement, TYSA’s four workgroups were implementing initial strategies, backbone staff had been onboarded, and the community members had begun to take action through TYSA to fight youth substance abuse on Staten Island.

About the Staten Island Foundation

The Staten Island Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those who live and work on Staten Island. In 2010, the Foundation helped launch and funded Take Care Staten Island (TCSI), a public-private partnership focused on improving the community’s health across 3 of the 10 health focus areas of NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Take Care New York initiative, and the Foundation has supported the community in creating a Vision for Staten Island.

About the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse

The Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) Initiative is a cross-sector coalition aimed at driving major improvements in youth substance abuse in Staten Island, with the ultimate goals of decreased use of alcohol and prescription drugs and youth making healthy choices overall. TYSA is led by a Steering Committee of non-profit, for-profit, and government organizations, agencies, and individuals that share the goal of dramatically decreasing use of alcohol and prescription drugs by Staten Island youth. Steering Committee members believe they can improve their collective impact if they work off a common strategic framework and effectively engage their communities, parents, youth and a broad array of nonprofits, government agencies, and civic organizations in this effort.

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