Last year was a busy year for FSG and Collective Impact! As 2013 begins, my colleague Jennifer Splansky and I are heartened to look back on all that has transpired in 2012, since the release of our first Collective Impact article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review and launching the Collective Impact blog in Fall 2011. The field of practice around Collective Impact is in a remarkably different place today than it was just a year ago. As our colleague Mark Kramer wrote in a blog post last year:
The response to this article has been extraordinary. Around the world people are talking about Collective Impact, holding conferences, starting initiatives. Major funders and nonprofit organizations have told us that they are changing their entire approach in order to embrace this concept. And leaders of numerous organizations in both the developed and developing worlds have consistently expressed to us that the language of Collective Impact has given them the words and rationale to explain to their boards and partners what they had been trying to do for years…
… People around the world who were doing Collective Impact independently have discovered that they are part of a community. Until now, they had no consistent way to describe their approach, no examples of success to substantiate their belief that this was a better way to work, no ability to learn from the thousands of others who were engaged in similar efforts without knowing it. All of a sudden, the experience that each person was slowly building up in isolation has become a field in which knowledge can grow exponentially. The name has helped foster a movement.
And yet, we know that much more work remains to be done to build a vibrant and robust community of practice, with actionable tools to enable communities to make progress at scale. Over the past year, we at FSG have continued our commitment to studying and promoting Collective Impact, working to launch initiatives across a range of social problems, deepening our understanding of what makes Collective Impact initiatives successful, publishing additional resources to share our learnings, and engaging with partners and stakeholders across the field to develop a burgeoning community of practice.
As a firm, we’ve continued to work with a range of foundation, government, and nonprofit clients as they create their own collective impact approaches to community challenges, partnering with ALLIES on workforce development in Silicon Valley, a collaborative in Minnesota on diabetes, economic development in Northeast Ohio, and cradle to career education in the Rio Grande Valley. FSG clients have seen great success, with the Road Map District Consortium winning a $40M Race to the Top award!
We released a number of publications, including Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work in SSIR, a follow-up to our original SSIR article providing more “how to” guidance to the field; Collective Impact for Opportunity Youth, which applies the Collective Impact framework to an issue area—specifically, youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market; and a blog series in SSIR with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation on key backbone functions.
In addition, we’ve hosted several webinars on key topics, hearing from FSG staff and great guest speakers on their experiences and learnings in Collective Impact and the role of funders in such efforts in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. A motion graphic video series, What is Collective Impact?, provided a high-level overview of the concept, and this blog continued to be a space for conversation and dialogue, with guest blog posts.
We continue to learn a great deal from our interactions with the field and from examples of Collective Impact nationwide and around the globe. As was the case last year, our learning agenda for this year is not just driven by FSG’s interests, but by our client needs and the interest in the field among funders and practitioners for a deeper and richer understanding of the power of CI.
Here are just a few of the questions we seek to answer in the year ahead:
What do communities need to know and do to be ready to implement a collective impact approach? How can CI initiatives best be sustained over time?
How can backbone organizations lead adaptively as collective impact initiatives emerge? And how can backbone leaders help their initiatives use data to learn about what is working well, and how to improve their work?
How can community engagement be a lever for collective impact, and what practices are most effective for engaging those most impacted by the issues efforts are working to tackle?
We continue to research collective impact around the world. In which contexts and organizations have you seen this approach? What can we learn?
Stay tuned for new thinking from FSG and our partners on these topics and others in 2013. As exciting as 2012 has been, we believe 2013 will offer even more opportunities for deepening the field of practice around Collective Impact. If you’re not yet on our mailing list, please sign up in the sidebar to be kept in the loop on new developments and the latest tools, resources, and articles.
What are you eager to learn in the year ahead? Please do tell us! We hope that this blog continues to provide a space for thinking out loud, for conversation and critique, and above all, for mutual learning to drive collective impact in your community and beyond.