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Advancing Equity, Justice, and a Culture of Collaboration: Insights from the 2019 Collective Impact Convening

This post, which originally appeared on the Collective Impact Forum, offers insight on the 2019 Collective Impact Convening. 

Collective impact practitioners have an insatiable appetite for tools, case studies, and other actionable resources on the “how” of collective impact: how to embed equity in planning and implementation, how to prioritize authentic community engagement, how to use data for continuous learning and improvement, how to create a culture of collaboration and build partners’ collaborative leadership capacity, and more.

This May, the Collective Impact Forum—a partnership between the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and FSG—hosted our sixth annual Collective Impact Convening in Chicago.  In our largest convening to date, we hosted over 800 change-makers from across the global to think deeply about many of these “how to” topics. Attendees came to Chicago to build skills and ultimately make progress toward achieving equitable systems change through collective impact.

As we reflect on the convening, we are grateful to those who joined us and challenged us to do our work in new and different ways.

  • We opened our convening with the session From the "Why" to "How": Operationalizing Equity in Collective Impact, with john a. powell of UC-Berkeley and Michael McAfee of PolicyLink. This talk offered rich insights and specific suggestions, but one in particular that stuck with me is an emphasis on changing our frame from inclusion to belonging. By adopting a goal of belonging, we shift from thinking about adding people to our tables or organizations, to co-creating our tables and organizations in partnership with all participants.
  • Attendees were challenged to consider how their own organizations and collective impact initiatives create the cultures and structures that support the development of leaders from a range of diverse backgrounds. These perspectives can be seen in RiseUp: Supporting a Culture of Emerging Social Change Leaders, a discussion moderated by Efrain Gutierrez of the Obama Foundation, in conversation with Michelle Morales of Mikva Challenge, Rye Young of Rye Young Consulting, and Tiffany Yu of Diversability. I was particularly struck by the honesty, vulnerability, and innovative management practices of these leaders and encourage all organizational leaders to watch this.
  • We closed our convening with Liz Dozier of Chicago Beyond’s Moving from Charity to Justice in Collective Impact keynote. Liz shared an inspiring story her personal path in educational reform and venture philanthropy – with lessons on how leaders can partner with others to achieve justice and equitable outcomes in their communities. Liz also spoke to some of the ideas in Chicago Beyond’s new publication, Why Am I Always Being Researched?, with practical tips for responsibly and respectfully engaging folks with lived experience in social sector research.

While our keynotes all shared unique perspectives on advancing efforts toward equitable systems change, we also learned from over 100 speakers in case studies and training sessions on a range of topic. Several of these sessions are also captured here, with insights on topics including the use of data in collaborations, strategies for pursuing systems change, and reflecting on your personal leadership.

In closing, we are grateful to everyone that joined us from across the US (from 43 U.S. States and the District of Columbia), and particularly to our international friends who made the trip to Chicago … from Australia, Canada, Colombia, India, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We hope to see you all at the 2020 Collective Impact Convening on May 6-8 in Minneapolis!



Jennifer Splansky Juster

Executive Director Collective Impact Forum

Robert Albright

Former Director of Programs, Collective Impact Forum