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Navigating Collective Impact 

In April 2013, Tamarack, FSG, Social Innovation Generation and Maytree hosted a workshop in Toronto for 150 leaders of collective impact backbone organizations. Called Champions for Change, this three day workshop explored a number of topics including a detailed look at the roles played by backbone leaders, dealing with complex issues in a changing and emergent environment, collective governance, and shared value.  

A particularly relevant session had the participants exploring the development of a collective impact initiative over four phases from generating ideas and dialogue through to sustaining action and impact.  Fay Hanleybrown of FSG presented the four phases of collective impact and the distinct elements including governance and infrastructure; strategic planning; community involvement; and evaluation and improvement.  

Workshop participants brainstormed what was working well, what was challenging and what was missing in each of the four phases.  Highlights of their discussions are shown above. (Click here to view as PDF.)

Navigating collective impact initiatives can be challenging work.  The community issue is often very complex whether school achievement, poverty, neighbourhood revitalization or youth engagement. There are multiple actors engaged in the issue with diverse and sometimes incongruent expectations about services and outcomes.  When you add in the voice of individuals with lived experience to this mix, urgency is created but simple solutions become more complex.  

Framing collective impact through four phases is useful.  Each phase builds on the one that preceded it but there are common challenges that backbone organizations encounter in this work. FSG, the Aspen Roundtable on Community Change, Tamarack and Innoweave will collectively develop resources that will help collective impact initiatives move forward.

Liz Weaver, Vice President, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement leads the Vibrant Communities Canada team provides coaching, leadership and support to community partners across Canada.   

Liz Weaver

Vice President Tamarack Institute